Too close for Froome's comfort before time trial

From left: Rigoberto Uran, Chris Froome and Romain Bardet wheel to wheel in the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.
From left: Rigoberto Uran, Chris Froome and Romain Bardet wheel to wheel in the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LE-PUY-EN-VELAY (France) • Chris Froome has admitted that he will not feel serene during Saturday's time trial in Marseille in the penultimate Tour de France stage unless he can take more time out of his rivals beforehand. The Stage 20 race against the clock will be the last opportunity for any contender to stake a claim for the yellow jersey.

And even though he is widely considered a better time triallist than his rivals, and he leads by 18 seconds from Fabio Aru, the Briton wants a bigger buffer to feel secure.

"I wouldn't be sleeping easy (if I only have a small advantage on Saturday). We always knew it was going to be a close race and that's exactly what it is," said the reigning champion. "This was to be expected and I knew that every stage, every single second is going to count."

Three riders sit within 30 seconds of Froome - Aru at 18, Romain Bardet at 23 and Rigoberto Uran at 29 - with fourth-placed Dan Martin only 1min 12sec further back.

But it is Uran who Froome fears most as the Colombian is usually the best time triallist of the Sky team leader's closest competitors.

"Each rival presents different threats. If you look at Fabio Aru, he won the first mountain-top finish on the Planche des Belles Filles. Perhaps he didn't have such a good day a couple of days ago, (but) he's been strong in the third week (of a Grand Tour) before. We'll have to wait and see how he goes," said Froome.

"Romain Bardet has always been strong in the last week of a Grand Tour and he also has the team (AG2R) to back him up. On Sunday he put me under a lot of pressure and we really had to use the whole team to control that situation.

"Rigoberto Uran... (is) probably the strongest time triallist of this group of GC riders, so with Marseille in mind he's a big threat."

Bardet yesterday hit out at fans from his home Auvergne region who jeered Froome on Sunday.

"It was great to be supported like never before," said Bardet. "But... I heard that Froome was abused at times. I'm really sorry, he's a champion who should be respected, who I respect as a rival and who doesn't deserve that kind of treatment."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'Too close for Froome's comfort before time trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe