Australian Michael Rogers and the Saxo-Tinkoff team led by Spaniard Alberto Contador are committed to pressuring British race leader Chris Froome right up until Sunday’s race finish in Paris.
Before the 17th stage on Wednesday, a 32-kilometre mountain time trial from Embrun to Chorges, Froome (Sky) had an overall lead of four minutes, 14 seconds on Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and 4.25 on Contador, who was third.
Fourth overall at 4.28 was the Czech Republic’s Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), followed by Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in fifth at 5.47.
Rogers, who was 12th overall at 10.54, said Saxo-Tinkoff would continue to attack Froome, as they did – albeit without distancing him – on the Col de Manse inside the last 25km of Tuesday’s 168km 16th stage from Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap.
”We will keep fighting to the end,” Rogers said before Tuesday’s race. ”Obviously, as the days tick by and the time gaps get bigger and bigger it gets harder. An ideal situation for us is to use Roman as a wildcard and try to isolate Froome. Although, for [Sky] tactically, it’s not that difficult. Now the general classification is starting to set, they only have to follow a few riders.”
However, as Contador showed during Tuesday’s stage, won in a solo break by Portugal’s Rui Costa (Movistar), it is not only when climbing he senses opportunity, but when descending, too.
Contador bombed the Col de Manse descent in a bid to pressure Froome, who was on his wheel; but the Spaniard crashed on a sharp turn with 7.5km to go, forcing Froome to swerve around him.
Contador was able to resume racing and did not lose time, but Froome later voiced his concern about the Spaniard’s risky descending. Many expect the same from Contador on Thursday’s 172km 18th stage from Gap to l’Alpe d’Huez that has one of the most dangerous descents in this year’s route.
It is the 27km descent from the 1999m summit of the Col de Sarenne, at 131.5km, to the foot of l’Alpe d’Huez, one of world cycling’s most iconic climbs, which, for the first time in Tour history, riders will race up twice in one stage.
The 3km climb up Col de Sarenne comes after the first ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez to 122km, but most worrying for a number of riders is the descent from the Col de Sarenne’s summit to the start of the final, 13.8km climb up l’Alpe d’Huez to the finish.
Froome raced down it for the first time in the Criterium du Dauphine in June, as did several of the peloton. On Tuesday, he urged riders not to take excessive risks on it. ”I’ve seen it in training and also in the Dauphine, it’s a very dangerous descent,” he said. ”The road surface is not great. I wouldn’t say it’s level. It’s not smooth. There aren’t any barriers. If you go over the corner, then you will fall down a long way. I hope the riders are aware of that so they don’t take risks like today [Tuesday].”
Rogers agreed the Col de Sarenne descent was dangerous. But he said those, such as himself, who raced on it in June should now be equipped to handle it.
”We did it in the Dauphine, so if the riders know about it, they can control it,” the Canberran said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.