LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France (VN) — Team Sky survived a “sticky moment” when Chris Froome suffered a bike problem Friday. He managed to carry the yellow jersey in to the Tour de France’s second and final rest day.
Sky’s Froome leads the overall by a slender 18 seconds on Fabio Aru (Astana). Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) sits third at 23 seconds and Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) fourth at 29.
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The tall and lanky Brit had a rear wheel problem when they were climbing through the Massif Central mountains towards Le Puy-en-Velay in stage 15. Teammate Michal Kwiatkowski gave him his wheel. Mikel Nieve and Sergio Henao pulled him back, and Mikel Landa dropped back from the speeding GC group with Bardet and his teammates.
“Crisis adverted? I think so, but I wouldn’t say crisis. For sure, though, it was a sticky moment,” team boss David Brailsford said. “You wouldn’t want to be there on our own, with no teammates or you’d be in trouble.”
Bardet’s team, with Urán and Aru sitting shotgun, had been ramping up the pace when Froome had trouble. Bardet lives and trains in the area and knows the roads well. There was a true feeling that the race was going to spin out of control.
Others might have crumbled, but Froome showed a rock-solid performance that carried him to three Tour de France titles so far. After he switched wheels, he relied on his teammates in what he called an “extremely stressful” moment.
“I really thought that could be the yellow jersey changing hands again,” Froome said. “I’m very grateful for my teammates doing the work to help me.”
“They’ve ridden a lot together. They are experienced,” Brailsford added. “They are all late in their 20s or early 30s. They’ve all been around the block a few times, and maybe when they were younger in their earlier 20s, it would’ve taken some time.
“Sometimes it takes a bit of time when someone punctures, it takes a bit of time to get organized, find out what’s going on. They figured it out.”
Froome clarified later that he thought he broke a spoke. Former world champion and this year’s Milano-Sanremo winner, Kwiatkowski remained cool and put his rear wheel in Sky’s number 1 bike for Froome.
“Kwiatkowski is sharp, super sharp, and I guarantee he’d have made the call and he did well,” Brailsford said.
“Maybe when they were younger, but now they are quite experienced, because otherwise you can go too hard too quickly and panic, and of course, you just explode.
“Kwiatkowski did a great little job, something off the bike instead of on the bike as he has been doing. With the experience of Nieve, a real solid rider who just feels the right tempo, knowing the steepness of the climb and how far is left. And to have Landa in the front, just being able to drop off. You get shepherded back in. It wasn’t a fun moment, but they managed quite well.”
Froome will regroup tomorrow with Sky, enjoying a deserved second and last rest day with the other 21 teams. The Tour de France restarts Tuesday for the last week through the Alps.