Chris Froome was forced into a wheel change approaching the crucial Col de Peyra Taillade but fought back to retain the yellow jersey while Bauke Mollema won his first Tour de France stage
As the Tour de France enters its final week, the 2,500 -mile race is coming down to nerves and seconds, which builds Daniel Martins current strategy of some interest. Had he not been caught up in the accident which did for Richie Porte en route to Chambry and lost 1min 15 sec, the Irishman would have been an immediate threat to Chris Froomes yellow jersey; instead he is engaged in his own personal pursuit race, gaining period when the tiniest opening beckons.
In the closing kilometres to this town on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim trail, Martin was the only one of the magic circle immediately behind Froome to gain the slightest sum of time, once Romain Bardets attempt to set the race leader under pressure had been snuffed out.
Froomes response to his broken spoke amounted to a major present of strength from the Sky leader, who managed to close a 50 -second gap even as five of Bardets AG2R team mates were piling on the pressure at the front. Moreover , none of the riders breathing down Froomes neck in the overall stands had sufficient strength to assault before the yellow jersey regained contact.
On Fridays Bastille Day to Foix, Martin made a late attack to gain nine seconds; here, he zipped out of different groups containing Froome and another favourites on a small rise some 10 kilometres from the finish. As he made his move, the yellow jersey and Bardets AG2R team-mates both looked at each other, devoting him the margin he required. I saw everybody was on the limit, and after the downhill, everybody various kinds of stalled, he said afterwards.
The Col de Peyra Taillade reared up for an intimidate five miles, rising from the twisting ravine of the river Allier via hairpins through high grasslands and dead straight ramps at 14% where some of the riders in the lead group were reduced to zig-zagging to maintain momentum. Welcome to hell, said a placard on the roadside on the climbing; the principal victim was Nairo Quintana, who lost contact early on and was unable to hold Froome for more than a few metres when he and his team-mate Mikel Nieve came past in pursuit of the group.
With Mikel Landa dropping back from the Bardet group to help him in the final metres before he regained contact, Froome caught up with Bardet and Aru and company a couple of kilometres from the top of the Peyra Taillade and immediately had to respond to an attack from the Frenchman, who was racing on his home roads in front of his home crowd.
Through high hayfields where the balers were bustling, in scenery reminiscent of Bodmin Moor but at more than 2,500 feet, the 189 kilometres were something of a Romain Bardet love-in. The AG2R leaders home township of Brioude is about an hours drive to the north of the finish, and the banners were multifarious and multicoloured, but with a single theme: France expects its current favourite son to wear the yellow jersey some time soon, but Bardet is biding his time. Or so he says, and so the nation hopes.
With merely seconds in the overall standings, the stage also came down to two times nothing as the French set it, with the seasoned Dutchman Bauke Mollema attacking the remaining a massive breakaway group simply over the top of the ascending of Peyra Taillade and somehow hanging on to the finish to give some relief to the Trek-Segafredo team, whose leader Alberto Contador is appearing past his sell-by date and is lurking in ninth place overall.
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