Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

Froome remains in yellow jersey and on his toes

Froome remains in yellow jersey and on his toes

The 189.5 km route from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay was perhaps one of the most demanding yet and came before the second rest day for the riders. "Personally, if I was one of them, I would have gone flat out, no team mates left", the American said.

"That was extremely stressful, panic station", said Froome after the 15th stage that was won by Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).

"I really thought that could be the yellow jersey changing hands again", Froome said.

The three-time Tour victor and defending champion punctured at a critical moment and was forced to work hard to ensure he finished with his main rivals. "Kwaitkowski gave me his wheel because the team auto was far away.We did all we could to return to the top of the race". So rather than the other contenders having to wait for the Briton - as unwritten race etiquette requires if a Tour leader has a mechanical problem or crash when there is a lull in the action - at this point the racing was "on" and his rivals could therefore legitimately continue to push out the time gaps.

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 amount of time, once Romain Bardet's attempt to put the race leader under pressure had been snuffed out.

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Bennett stayed near the front, finishing 22 seconds behind Australian stage victor Michael Matthews.

Michal Kwiatkowski turned mechanic by removing his back wheel and fitting it onto colleague Froome's bike, rather than wait for a Team Sky vehicle.

A week from the finish in Paris, Froome has 18 seconds ahead of the champion of Italy's Fabio Aru and 23 seconds over Bardet.

"I really like to fight for the general classifications and normally next year I will go back for the Tour to fight for GC".

France's Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale won the stage with Aru third, two seconds in arrears, and Froome seventh, another 20 seconds adrift.

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Mikel Landa had stayed safe in the front group, but - despite being fifth overall himself - dropped back to help Froome and dragged the yellow jersey back to the group.

"I very rarely make a plan, it is just [about] opportunities", said Martin afterwards.

The big name to lose more time was Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who came in 46th place and at 10m 19s. By finishing in that leading pack well ahead of the likes of Aru and Froome, Landa clawed back valuable time in the overall standings, giving Sky an intriguing card to play in coming stages.

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