Stage 8 on the second Saturday of the 2012 Tour de France in the first trip to the mountains Chris Froome rode to a brilliant stage victory and Sky’s team leader took the yellow jersey on a mountain top finish.
Exactly the same thing happened on the second Saturday of the 2013 Tour. Except this exact same thing was different.
Well the first major change is the Sky leader was also the stage winner. Froome picking up both this year, with it being just plain Bradley Wiggins last. And the way he did it slightly changed. Last year he dropped back and then charged off near the end of the stage, Cadel Evans and Wiggins following in very shortly after Froome crossed the line. This time he went off well before the line.
Movistar’s Columbian 23 year old climber Nairo Quintana went off on the second last climb, up the Col de Pailheres, the highest point of this year’s Tour. But Sky turned the clock back a year as Peter Kennaugh powered his team-mates, Froome and Porte over the summit and then led the descent that cut Quintana’s lead by half to 30 seconds. The young Olympic gold medal holder then did more great work up the final climb before Porte took over.
Then as Quintana slowed with the somewhat thinned chasing pack joining him, Froome took off and was gone, never to be seen again by all the other GC favourites. The only person who got within a minute was his number two, Porte. As with last year Sky ended the day first and second in the standings. A minute plus had been put on Froome’s main rivals.
Last year’s stage win wasn’t that much of a surprise, though Phil Liggett asked where it had come from with Froome, it was something he showed in the previous years Vuelta. This finish was what he almost showed in last year’s Tour but had to suppress for his team leader.
The following stage, 9, we saw something that certainly didn’t happen in last year’s Tour. The disintegration of the Sky team in the face of an all out assault. Very early on Froome was left all on his lonesome, well bar the numerous Movistar riders swarming all over him.
Last year Wiggins had a comfortable cruise really with most of his helpers around him most of the way. Bernie was off helping Cav over the climbs and Sivtsov had been lost early. But the rest were working for Wiggo.
Froome could only dream of that as he headed into four category one climbs. Thomas with his cracked pelvis and Kennaugh with his immense turn at the front the stage before and his trip down a ditch at the side of the road after being bumped by a Garmin rider both had excuses. Porte was a surprise but again the work he had done before must have had a hell of an effect on him. The others, well they disappeared kind of early the previous day and did so again.
Again it was something we had seen before, in last year’s Vuelta. Froome found himself with few team-mates when it counted back then. And back then it told as a Spanish trio mobbed him off the podium. Back then I posted that I didn’t know if he had it in him to be a leader, be the one with the target on his back. Was he just a trusty lieutenant?
Yesterday’s stage showed he’s a leader.
Admittedly with six riders available Movistar’s tactics were somewhat baffling. Of the two in contention on GC only Quintana did anything but everything he did was covered brilliantly by Froome. Surprisingly Valverde did very little. Keeping his powder dry or just happy with second place and the main competition for that spot on the podium, Porte, out of the picture? Strange when a one two could have been difficult for Froome to combat.
Anyway with no help and a tough stage, even with help, Froome rode another magnificent stage to keep all those seconds he gained on Saturday intact.
This is warming up to be a hell of a great Tour.