MONT VENTOUX, France (VN) — After he’d lost a little more than a minute in the crosswinds Friday to Alberto Contador, Chris Froome said more time would be lost or gained on the road up Mont Ventoux than was gone with the wind, and he didn’t seem worried.
Now we know why.
Froome wrecked the hopes of the other general classification riders on Sunday up Ventoux, with a dazzling attack from a whittled-down group, thanks to his Sky teammates. When he attacked Contador, seated, his rpms and power were overwhelming — and not many can recall the Spaniard ever being shredded in such fashion.
Hours prior and minutes after the peloton departed Givors for Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day, Dave Brailsford, Sky’s principal, said flatly that Froome would win up the Ventoux, one of the Tour de France’s famous climbs.
Of course, Froome proved him right. It was a stage that finished about an hour ahead of schedule, and one that couldn’t have gone more perfectly for a banged-up Sky team that Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff squad strung out in the crosswinds days prior.
That is but a dream now for Contador, after Froome savagely attacked and rode the Spaniard into oblivion. But before he flew away, his Sky team, down to just seven riders, flayed themselves, first on the rollers and then up Ventoux. By the time Peter Kennaugh hit the wind, Sky’s command of the peloton was apparent. By the time Richie Porte had pulled through with absolute force, only he, Froome, and Contador were left from the main group. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was up ahead, though he’d be taken care of later.
“It’s incredible to be able to put it all together,” Kennaugh said at the summit, sweat rolling from his salt-stained face. “Such a hard stage from the word go, with those short climbs early on and half the peloton wanted to get in the break. And just to be part of a team who can ride like that together and stay strong with only seven of us is an amazing feeling.”
He said the team’s performance on the Ventoux served as a retort to those who questioned its strength just days prior when it lost time to Contador.
“And that’s bike racing. Pffft. All the journalists say, well, ‘Team Sky haven’t got it.’ What do you want out of us? We’re not machines. We’re not robots. We’re only human. And today we’ve had a good day. Let’s just celebrate that.”
Froome was celebrating. He took his second stage win at this Tour, and has all but turned out the lights on the yellow-jersey contest. He leads now by more than four minutes over the field, with Bauke Mollema (Belkin) in second and Contador in third, 4:25 out.
“It’s a mythic climb. It’s the biggest win of my career,” Froome said. “It wasn’t really about trying to send [Contador] a message, but obviously I’m going to try and take as much time as possible ahead of the final week. There’s still some hard racing to come so I’m really happy to have this advantage now.”
Everything went according to plan for the famously meticulous Sky.
“Yeah, it was perfect,” Brailsford said. “Our plan was always the same, we were going to Froomey, Richie, and Pete, into the ideal situation at the foot of the climb, as fresh as possible. That was the job of everybody else, and they did that perfectly, to be honest.”
And while heaping praise upon everyone else, Brailsford did not fail to drape an metaphorical arm around Froome’s thin shoulders.
“He deserves the credit, we’re just the guys who try and help,” he said. “He knows what he’s doing and I think he showed today he’s the best climber in the world.
“I think he kind of put as much time as possible into his adversaries. He was thinking about the GC and thinking about the time gap. We’ve got the rest day tomorrow so this has always been earmarked for us as a day when we could gain time.
“It’s like golf, isn’t it? I might have missed an easy putt the other day but I think we got an eagle today.”