Chris Froome said his fast descent to win stage eight reminded him of training sessions
Chris Froome said his surprise attack to take the yellow jersey came down to a spur of the moment decision as the reduced lead group hit the top of the final climb, the Col de Peyresourde. That was one of the hardest stages Ive done in a long time, he said.
I thought everyone was going to be on the limit so I would just give it a little squeeze and see what happened. Id tried a couple of times on the climb but it hadnt worked, I thought lets give it one more go and see if I can pull away on the descent.
Once he had made his escape, albeit initially only by a few metres, Froome benefited from the fact he had put on a slightly higher gear than usual, just in case it was needed. It was a risk I thought I should take. I knew the descent was fast, straight, I thought: Hold on, Ive got a 54-tooth chainring on here [as opposed to the usual 53 teeth], I will be able to pedal a bit more than the other guys.
Using a slightly higher gear than normal meant Froome was able to pedal in his aerodynamic tuck position with less risk of becoming unstable, and his skill through the sweeping bends on the descent came, he said, from the competitive nature of Team Sky training camps, where the riders vie to be the fastest downhill.
Its like going back to being a kid again. We always mess around, race each other on descents, its why you ride a bike, that adrenaline, that rush. We train like that a lot, a group of boys who want to race each other, and it paid off today.
It was just because it was such a hard day. Everyone was on their knees and he took advantage of that, his Sky teammate Geraint Thomas said. Hes always been able to descend fast, hes a bit wobbly and doesnt look too good but he can go down fast. He takes bigger risks than that in training so Im not surprised. Hes a bit of nutcase when it comes to that.
After Froomes emphatic stage win at LaPierre Saint-Martin, his Tour win last year was marred by speculation over his power figures, but there should be less interest over how many watts he pushes when he is going downhill, although he said wryly that someone, somewhere was bound to claim his descent figures were off the chart.
Ironically, in view of the controversy with fans last year, Froome again had to ward off unwanted attention; a video showed him shoving a Colombian fan off the road on one of the climbs. Ive absolutely nothing against Colombian fans, Froome said, but this guy was running right next to me, he had a flag and it was getting dangerous so I lashed out and pushed him away. Id urge fans not to run alongside the riders.
This was the first time Froome had attacked downhill to take a victory in his career, his five previous Tour de France stage wins having come in uphill moves approaching summit finishes or in time trials. When he took the yellow jersey in 2013 and 2015, on both occasions it was at the end of a mountain stage with an uphill finish.
This win was less emphatic than on either of those occasions but it leaves the bigger picture looking the same. Team Sky face having to control the race for a considerable stretch 14 stages, as opposed to 11 last year and 13 in 2013 but Froomes early move will leave his rivals fearing what is to come when the race ends uphill on Sunday in Andorra.