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Tour de France leader Chris Froome throws down gauntlet

By Matt McGeehan

Chris Froome challenged his rivals for the Tour de France yellow jersey to put him under pressure in the Pyrenees after another profitable day.

The 2013 champion leads Tejay van Garderen by 12 seconds after the American's BMC Racing squad won the 28-kilometre ninth stage team time trial by 0.62 seconds from Froome's Team Sky squad.

Froome made further gains over his other rivals: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is one minute three seconds back, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 1min 59secs adrift and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 2:22 behind going into today's first rest day.

The Briton regards Van Garderen as "the biggest rival" and reckons Quintana and Nibali, in particular, must take the initiative to try to wrestle the maillot jaune from his shoulders.

"This first phase of the race has gone better than any of us could've imagined," said Froome.

"It's one thing not to lose any time to your rivals, but to actually gain quite substantial amounts of time on a lot of contenders has put us in a fantastic position.

"The pressure's certainly not on my shoulders in the next phase of the race.

"At this stage it's for the other guys to try to get the jersey from me now and for us potentially to be riding more of a defensive race."

Froome appears confident and was not too disappointed after Team Sky unravelled on the finishing climb to Plumelec to miss out on the stage victory.

The route was technical, twisting and finished with a 1.7km ascent.

Times were given on the fifth rider of the team, meaning unity was important, and Team Sky stuck together well until the road ramped up in the final 500m and that is where the stage win slipped from their grasp.

The British squad began the ascent with six riders, but Woet Poels fell back and Nicolas Roche admitted being "out of the comfort zone" as he dropped back with the line in sight.

Froome added: "For everyone's morale it would've been fantastic to get the stage win.

"In the final we saw Nico Roche struggling a little bit up that final climb, but that's the nature of a team time-trial. He gave so much earlier on.

"We definitely can't put it down to him struggling up the final climb.

"We really can't be too disappointed."

Belfast Telegraph


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