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July 13, 2016 – Chris Froome vowed to keep fighting for every second after stretching his Tour de France lead on Wednesday’s 11th stage. The 31-year-old Briton was part of a four-man breakaway in the last 13km that made it all the way to the line as he finished second behind Peter Sagan.
The peloton arrived six seconds later while Froome also gleaned another six seconds in time bonuses. It was the second time in this Tour that the reigning champion had launched a surprise attack to gain a few vital seconds on his rivals. He won the seventh stage with a daring descent to the finish that gave him 13 seconds plus another 10 in bonuses.
“That’s our mentality: to try whatever opportunities to get an advantage whenever possible,” said the Team Sky leader, a twice winner of the Tour de France. Froome’s main rival Nairo Quintana was caught out again and now sits fourth overall at 35sec. But Froome insisted he wasn’t attacking in unusual places due to any fear that Quintana is a stronger climber — which is where Tour-winning differences are normally made.
“I’m certainly enjoying what I’m doing. I’m loving being in yellow again, it’s a dream scenario for me,” said Froome. “This is bike racing at its best. For GC (general classification) guys taking the race on flat stages like this, I certainly feel like I’m enjoying it and I’m not forced into this because of pressure or nervousness.”
Sagan made the initial attack alongside Tinkoff team-mate Maciej Bodnar with Froome and his Sky lieutenant Geraint Thomas reacting quickly to produce a formidable four-man breakaway. They rode hard all the way to the line as the peloton, led by sprinters’ teams, took time to readjust. “As a team we’re working really well together. The guys kept me up front,” said Froome. “When the move did go with Peter Sagan, I was perfectly placed to go with him.”
Quintana said he was unfazed by the time loss. He usually comes on strong in the last week of Grand Tours and, having finished second overall to Froome in 2013 and last year, has never before been so close to the Briton this far into the world’s most prestigious bike race.
“It was a pretty tough day for me — there was lots of wind and it was very flat. Even the sprint and wind specialists couldn’t fight for the win when they (Froome and Sagan) took off. Yes, Froome got a few seconds, he took advantage of this moment and he took a few seconds, but I’m keeping a positive attitude because I didn’t crash.”
Quintana, though, hit out at Tour organisers for the nature of the stages. “It really was tense. Sometimes organizers don’t think about the cyclists — they want a spectacle but they don’t realist they’re putting us in very dangerous situations. “We’re having stages like this every day.” But he added: “We (Movistar) are fighting for overall victory. There are a lot of days left and many mountains to come, especially at the end.”
Sagan thanked Bodnar and the Sky pair for helping him take a surprise victory on a stage that seemed, on paper at least, to be destined for a bunch sprint. “It was very hard (in the last 10km). It was a surprise also for me, we weren’t planning that — we are artists,” said the amiable Slovak. “It was unbelievable, it just happened. You cannot plan that.” He added: “It was a crazy day with a lot of wind, a lot of stress and lots of crashes.”