Froome vows to hold back for time-trial

Chris Froome (AP)
Chris Froome (AP)

Montpellier - Tour de France leader Chris Froome said he won't be going all guns blazing up Mont Ventoux on Thursday as he wants to save energy for Friday's time-trial.

Thursday's 12th stage, finishing on iconic mountain Mont Ventoux, is expected to produce a crucial battle in the fight for overall victory.

But with a 37km individual time-trial to come the next day, Froome said he'll be keeping his powder dry.

"To win, not on top of but halfway up, on the Ventoux stage really is something special," said the 31-year-old Briton, who claimed a stage victory on the mythical climb in 2013, when he won his first of two Tours.

"It's certainly at the back of all our minds that it's the time-trial the next day.

"Whoever goes really deep on Ventoux will pay the price the day after.

"Every consecutive GC (general classification) days you have to think of the day after, and any big efforts are going to cost you the next day.

"That's certainly on my radar. Maybe my rivals are approaching it differently and going for the maximum advantage on Ventoux and trying to hold it in the time-trial."

However, it is twice now that Froome has put in a big effort at the end of stages when normally overall contenders are merely trying to stay safe and conserve energy.

He's gained time on both those stages - 23 seconds on stage seven and 12 seconds on Wednesday, bonuses included - but acknowledged that the extra effort could work against him.

"I was asking myself that today (Wednesday) in the last 10km, wondering if it was worth expending that energy," admitted Froome.

"But in this moment, I'm going to take any advantage I can get knowing that Nairo (Quintana) in particular is really strong in the third week.

"If I can take any seconds in this point, I will."

Young Briton Adam Yates is second overall but now 28 seconds behind Froome.

"I expected guys to attack (on Wednesday) but I didn't expect Froome to be one of them," said the 23-year-old Orica climber.

"The way he takes seconds every day, he'll be hard to beat.

"Tomorrow (Thursday) I'll just do my thing. If I'm on a good day, I'll ride at the front."

Quintana certainly hasn't lost confidence despite drifting out to 35 seconds off Froome's lead.

The 26-year-old Colombian is convinced he will be able to take back that time and more later on in the race, in particular four Alpine stages after next week's rest day.

"He (Froome) took advantage of this moment and took some seconds but nothing has been decided yet," said Quintana.

"The race is still on and there are lots of days left in the Tour, many mountains and the two time-trials."

Third-placed Dan Martin is now 31 seconds off the lead but he was happy not to lose more time to Froome on Wednesday.

And the Irishman thanked his time-trial specialist team-mate Tony Martin for guiding him safely to the finish.

"With 15 kilometres to go, things became totally crazy, but Tony saved me at that point and rode five kilometres in the wind for me," he said.

"I lost some time on Froome, but so did everybody else, and to be quite frank it's a small gap, not the end of the world."

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