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"It was a short, steep climb at 3km, and I knew what pace I had to ride. I knew Quintana wouldn’t be able to get that far away from me so I didn’t panic, rode at my own speed, and brought him back before the top."

Photo: A.S.O.








18.07.2015 @ 19:11 Posted by Andy Pedersen

Chris Froome put in a masterful performance on the day’s final climb to extend his race lead following stage 14 at the Tour de France. After Team Sky had spent the 178.5-kilometre stage pacing the peloton the fireworks began on the steep ascent of the Cote de la Croix Neuve in Mende.


Nairo Quintana (Movistar) launched an attack on the painful gradient as the lead group split apart. Coming across the gap Froome was able to bridge back to the Colombian, before eventually out-sprinting his rival by one second on the aerodrome finish.


With a number of other rivals distanced Froome was able to extend his overall lead by 18 seconds, with Quintana now his nearest rival, three minutes and 10 seconds back. Geraint Thomas admitted to not being on his best day but the Welshman hung tough to secure sixth place overall, 4:54 back on Froome.


A strong team ride again laid the foundations for success, with Ian Stannard resuming his impressive role on the front for much of the day after a breakaway of 20 riders had eventually formed. As the peloton arrived on the second-category Cote de Sauveterre it was Richie Porte who arrived on the front to set the tempo for Team Sky. Luke Rowe led the bunch off the climb as each Team Sky rider put in their turn, while up ahead the breakaway began to attack each other on the final climb.


French duo Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) crested the climb first, but as the road dropped down to the line it was Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) who appeared, finishing with a flurry to take a popular stage victory.


After the stage Froome admitted he was happy with both his performance and that of the team, despite the disappointing actions of one fan on the roadside.


"As far as the racing went, it was a really good day for us," he confirmed. "The team did a great job getting me to that final climb in a good position, and then I just rode at tempo to keep things under control.”


"It was a short, steep climb at 3km, and I knew what pace I had to ride. I knew Quintana wouldn’t be able to get that far away from me so I didn’t panic, rode at my own speed, and brought him back before the top. He’s my main rival on the climbs, and deserves that respect, but he wasn’t getting away from me today.


"My team-mates have done an impeccable job until the foot of the last climb. Nairo Quintana was very strong. I was happy to ride my own tempo. I knew I'd catch up before the top of the climb. 


"At this stage, he's my biggest threat. Every little second will count so I've tried to gain something on him just before we crossed the finishing line. I'm happy that I've put some time onto the others.
"I haven't seen what happened behind but we still have a second card to play with Geraint Thomas. We might send him in a breakaway one day.


"Having over three minutes lead going into the Alps is a dream situation for me. My guys have done a phenomenal job riding on the front every day and I couldn’t have asked for any more support.


"I’d like to congratulate MTN Qhubeka for their victory today too. Having an African team take a win on Madiba Day was really special, and even better for me that it came from a fellow Brit, and former team-mate in Steve Cummings.


"This is a happy Mandela Day! It's a great victory for Africa and for Great-Britain. My congratulations go to MTN-Qhubeka. It's a massive victory for a wild-card team. It's also a good day for us. 


On another day of sweltering heat Thomas talked about the tough finale and holding on over the climb.


"It was another hot day and hard to control the break," he told ITV4. "We had two hours of full gas racing at the start but we stuck together well and got Froomey into a good position for the start of that climb. Then it was down to him. I said to him I wasn’t really feeling it today, but he distanced Tejay, which meant he’s opened up more time on second place, so that was great.


"That was a bit of a shock to the system for me, but it’s the same for everyone and I coped with it as best I could. For a bad day, it wasn’t so bad. I knew I had to ride that last climb at my own pace and not go too deep at the bottom. In this heat, I could have cooked myself quite easily, but I managed to ride up to [Robert] Gesink and [Bauke] Mollema, and finish with them.


"I saw Steve [Cummings] had won when I got back on the bus and that was great to see because he’s a good mate."



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