Geraint Thomas extended his result at the top of the general category in the Tour de France while Nairo Quintana stormed to stage victory but it was a bad day for Chris Froome
And then there was one. High up on the Col du Portet, a mountain whose beauty is matched only by its spite, Chris Froome uttered five terms into his radio:” I am not feeling super .” Moments later the debate over who would be Team Sky’s leader at the crunch part of this year’s Tour de France, a subplot often laced with intrigue and deep uncertainty, came to a sudden end.
Froome, the four-times winner, began to float backwards. And Geraint Thomas, liberate of any obligations to his friend, knew what he had to do. First he pushed onwards past Froome. Then he brushed off the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin. And abruptly he was at the summit with an even bigger time gap over his challengers- and recognising that a first Tour victory was within his grasp.
” I think we’re in a great stance ,” Thomas said.” It’s unfortunate Froomey lost day but he’s still up there on the podium. We only have to keep doing what we’re doing .”
The history books will note it was the Colombian Nairo Quintana who overcame tyre and mechanical problems to win the shortest and spikiest stage of this year’s Tour- a 65 km rollercoaster ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan. Yet this was the day many expected Thomas’s chances too to puncture. Instead it was Froome who fell away, losing 48 sec to his teammate in a dramatic finale, with the Irishman Dan Martin finishing second and Thomas third- thus earning himself a 4sec day bonus.
It means that the 32 -year-old Welshman now results the race by 1min 59 sec from Dumoulin, with Froome 2min 31 sec back. As Froome acknowledged afterwards:” He’s got a fairly comfortable buffer. We simply need to look after him for these next few days .”
To make matters worse for Froome, he was grabbed by an aggressive spectator during the stage and then accidentally knocked down by a policeman who mistook him for a spectator as he rode back to the Team Sky bus. One small mercy: at the least the gendarme was not carrying pepper spray.