Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Rivals have let Chris Froome off hook, says Sean Kelly

BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, FRANCE - JULY 07: Race leader Chris Froome of Great Britain and Sky Procycling prepares for stage nine of the 2013 Tour de France, a 168.5KM road stage from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, on July 7, 2013 in Saint-Girons, France. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Sean Kelly believes Chris Froome's rivals will be kicking themselves for not having done more to take the yellow jersey off his shoulders during the dramatic stage nine of the Tour de France.

Froome's Team Sky squad fell apart during the first of the five categorised climbs in the Pyrenees, leaving the race leader exposed amid a pack of predators as he had to defend himself without any support.

That the 28-year-old managed to do so without losing any time -- he still leads the second-placed Alejandro Valverde by one minute 25 seconds -- showed yet another side to his armoury and reinforced the impression that he is the strongest rider on the Tour.

But the vulnerabilities shown by his Sky team-mates left plenty of question marks about their overall grip on the race, which had looked so strong only 24 hours before.

"If you go back a day to stage eight on Ax 3 Domaines when Froome won so convincingly, riding away with his team so strong, people were saying, 'God, the race is over'," Kelly said.

"But then yesterday within 24 hours it changed completely and you could see how vulnerable Sky were. You couldn't have foreseen that change.

"The other teams have seen Sky are breakable. But yesterday there was an opportunity for some teams to really take them on and they didn't do it. They needed to attack between the climbs to put Froome in difficulty."

Kelly described the situation Froome found himself in all alone as "scary" but was impressed with the Kenyan-born Brit's response.

"The stress can affect a rider but he handled it all," said Kelly.

"He could not have done it better. He didn't show any cracks at all."

While Froome shone, there is no question Sky have been weakened with Richie Porte losing 17 minutes to surrender second place overall, while Peter Kennaugh was involved in a scary crash and Vasili Kiryienka was eliminated after being swept up by the broom wagon.

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