LAISSAC-SEVERAC L'EGLISE (France) • There is still a week to go in the Tour de France but race leader Chris Froome insisted that "every second counts" after surprisingly reclaiming the yellow jersey.
Saturday's 14th stage was not supposed to create gaps among the favourites with just a short 600m climb to the finish. But it was the long, fast downhill section beforehand that made the difference as positioning into the final ascent was vital in a strung-out peloton.
And once again, as he had done last year, Team Sky's Froome proved he has the panache to glean time wherever there is an opportunity to do so.
"The race was in bits with Astana trying to control it," said the Briton.
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"I'd like to think when we were controlling the race it was a bit calmer. (Now on) it will be all hands on deck because it will be a war."
This year's race has shown that big time gaps over a single stage are almost impossible to gain among the leaders, meaning they must seize every opportunity that comes along, no matter how small.
Astana rider Fabio Aru admitted he had been caught out of position as he lost the yellow jersey to Froome on Saturday.
He started the day six seconds ahead of the three-time champion but, before yesterday's 15th stage, trailed Froome by 18 seconds after coming home 30th overall, 25sec behind stage 14 winner Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb.
"I was too far back at the start of the (final) climb," said Aru. "There was a break in the bunch and I had to put in a huge effort to close the gap, which I then paid for when there was another break. That explains the gap (to Froome)."
Bauke Mollema of the Trek-Segafredo team won the 15th stage, a 189.5km-ride from Laissac-Severac L'Eglise to Le Puy en Velay.
The Dutchman jumped away from the breakaway group of the day 31 km from the finish to claim a solo victory ahead of Italian Diego Ulissi and Frenchman Tony Gallopin. It was his first stage win.
Froome, who survived a puncture, retained the yellow jersey.