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“I'm very thankful to my team-mates for keeping me in front all day and especially when it mattered, when the split took place. Everbody was talking about how Froome was not going to hold off today but it wasn't to be."

Photo: Sirotti








05.07.2015 @ 21:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Chris Froome gained time on several of his biggest rivals as the peloton was ripped apart on the second stage of the Tour de France.


Some brilliant riding from Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard helped Froome work his way into a 26-man group as the wind and rain caused havoc in Holland, and the 2013 champion crossed the line one minute and 27 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde (both Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Jean Christophe Péraud (AG2R) and overnight leader Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) were among a long list of riders to lose time, although Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) were both present in Froome’s reduced faction.


It was Andre Greipel who sprinted to victory in Zelande, with the Lotto Soudal rider rounding Mark Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) on the long finishing straight for his 10th win of the season. Fabian Cancellara pipped Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) to third position, and bonus seconds ensured the Trek Factory Racing rider opened up a three-second lead over Tony Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) at the top of the overall standings.



The 166km trek from Utrecht had started in clement conditions, and somewhat surprisingly, Stef Clement (IAM Cycling), Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne Seche), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Jan Barta (Bora Argon 18) formed the day’s initial breakaway with the very first attack of the race.


As the winds whipped up, so did the tension in the bunch, and the first significant split occurred when Luke Rowe and Stannard had helped drive a furious pace after 50km.


Although things came back together temporarily, it all kicked off again in the last 60km once the escape group had been reeled back in. A crash proved the catalyst, and as the rain bucketed down, many of the main contenders were dropped as Etixx – Quick-Step and Lotto Soudal rode hard on the front.


All the while, Stannard and Thomas kept Froome well protected, and he repaid their efforts by sprinting to seventh on the stage.


That result moved Froome up to 10th on the general classification, while Geraint Thomas is Team Sky’s highest-ranked rider in fifth overall.



The result saw Froome climb to 10th in the overall standings, and the 30 year old was full of praise for his team-mates for helping make that happen.


He said: “I’m really thankful to them for keeping me towards the front all day, I really needed them, especially when those splits happened. Everyone was hoping that storm was going to hold off until after the finish but it wasn’t to be and I’m just glad things worked out as they did.  


“It was great to be up there with G [Thomas] and Yogi [Stannard] at the end. They did a great job in keeping me protected. This is their playground and the classics style of racing is what they were born to do. That was why they made the Tour de France team, and they definitely proved their worth today.”


Wind and rain battered the riders during the mid-part of the stage, and Froome provided more detail on how things had transpired out on the road before urging against reading too much into the result.


He added: “It was chaos out there, and it was a good few kilometres after the second split had happened that we found out we were in a smaller group, and that some of the GC guys had been distanced. At one point Nibali was right next to me so I couldn’t believe it when I heard he’d been dropped, but that’s the nature of racing up here in Holland for you.


“When we found out, myself and Alberto [Contador] talked on our bikes, and he was saying ‘we’ve got the gap so let’s commit to this move and both buy into it’. We got BMC Racing to do the same because they had Tejay [van Garderen] up there as well. We were all aware of the situation.


“This is a huge advantage for us now. We’re two days down and I couldn’t have hoped for much more at this point in the race. Sitting in this position after one flat day is fantastic, but this is a three-week race, and as we’ve seen, things change on a daily basis. We’re ahead today but who knows what’s in store for us for the rest of the week.


“I'm very thankful to my team-mates for keeping me in front all day and especially when it mattered, when the split took place. Everbody was talking about how Froome was not going to hold off today but it wasn't to be. I'm glad it happened the way it happened and I had all the support from my team-mates when it mattered. Two days gone now and I couldn't really hope for more."


Immediately after the stage, Thomas explained how the decisive split had come, and was delighted with how the day had panned out.


He told ITV4: “The crash came after the intermediate sprint. Someone fell over my back wheel and that cracked my frame, but I had a quick bike change and got back to the front just fine.


“We knew after 108km the crosswinds would come, but the storm meant it was really hard to see where we were going. There were crashes everywhere, but fortunately we were at the front and the three of us were able to make that split. It was great to gain that time on some of Froomey’s rivals.


“We were so focused on staying upright, and staying at the front, that we didn’t pay much attention to who was dropped initially – it was only 10km down the road when we heard the news. That was nice, and because there were only three of us from Team Sky, we let Etixx – Quick-Step ride initially and then got BMC Racing to help us, and it all worked out a treat.


“I’ve only just learned how big the gap was and that’s perfect for us at this stage in the race.”



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