Uneasy Froome keen to extend Tour lead before TT

Aaron Brown
July 18, 2017

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 victor Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb.

"It's clear we have to move on those two days in the Alps - we have high hopes for those two stages", said Jurdie.

"Everyone is fighting for every second they can get", Froome said. "It's a close race, but we knew that coming into this year's Tour de France with so few time trial kilometres, so few summit finishes". From seventh overall at the start of the stage, Landa is fifth, just 1:09 behind Aru.

"They all emptied themselves to get me back into the race".

By finishing fourth in that leading pack that sped in almost two minutes ahead of a chasing group that included the Tour's top four riders overall - Aru, Froome, French rider Romain Bardet and Colombian Rigoberto Uran - Landa clawed back valuable time in the overall standings.

Froome was well positioned and had no problem tackling the final climb.

"His strong point is he's very strong will-powered and Dan definitely believes he can win it, which he should do, because a couple of years ago (in 2014) if there weren't the two crashes (Froome and Alberto Contador), then (Vincenzo Nibali) wouldn't have won", added Roche, who believes circumstances could always give his nephew a chance. Froome had to put in a huge effort with the aid of his Sky teammates over the next five kilometres to catch the group and avoid losing vital time.

Team Sky also have a second leadership option in the emergence of Mikel Landa who is in sixth place overall and just over a minute down on Froome.

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'I certainly feel as if I'm on an upward curve, ' the Briton said.

The 2017 Tour de France general classification battle is the closest since 1951. "There were attacks, people tried to attack me several times but I responded every time".

Matthews, who beat Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet in the sprint to claim his second stage win at the Tour, said he'd targeted the stage win all year, and trained specifically for the last climb. He had no challengers at the finish as he rode across the line alone to complete the victory.

Statistic, quote and fact of the day after the 15th stage of the Tour de France, a 189.5-km ride from Laissac-Severac L'Eglise on Sunday.

"I'm grateful I was able to get back to that front group because that was a really critical moment of the race", he said.

"We saw today that Landa did not hesitate, he did the right thing, he stayed in the front", Brailsford said.

The defending champion came seventh, one second behind stage victor Michael Matthews of Australia as Aru, who started the day with the yellow jersey on his shoulders, lost 25 seconds to the Briton in the final effort, a 600-metre climb at an average gradient of 9.6 per cent.

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