TEAM Sky’s Geraint Thomas believes Chris Froome is in perfect form as his colleague prepares for a decisive 48 hours in his bid to cement a second Tour de France title.
Briton Froome repelled numerous attacks in the Alps for a second consecutive day to preserve his lead of three minutes and 10 seconds over nearest challenger Nairo Quintana yesterday.
The 2013 Tour winner is now expected to face increasingly desperate attacks on the two remaining stages of concerted racing before Sunday’s processional finish in Paris.
Froome, 30, knows the scene of today’s finish La Toussuire well, having writ large his Grand Tour-winning credentials by upstaging his then lead rider Sir Bradley Wiggins on the climb in 2012.
“We’ve been saying this since the start but morale is really good in the team and everyone’s really up for it,” said Welshman Thomas, who remains fourth in the overall standings.
“Froomey’s in great form so we’re buzzing about that, and it means we can get that little bit extra out of ourselves as well. He can look at it like he’s only got an hour and a half of racing left on the remaining big climbs, and it’s down to the rest of us to make sure he’s in the right position heading onto those climbs.”
Tomorrow’s 20th and penultimate stage will see Froome revisit the 21 hairpin bends of the notorious Alpe-d’Huez, where he laboured on his way to securing the yellow jersey.
“There are two more stages left of real racing,” he said. “This time two years ago, I was just sort of hanging on. It’s the last challenge. We can really expect it to be a big finale.”
The Tour’s organisers issued a plea to spectators before yesterday’s stage – won by Frenchman Romain Bardet, who climbed to 10th in the general classification – in response to unsavoury acts towards Team Sky riders. Froome, who has vehemently denied suggestions of doping by some commentators, had urine thrown at him, while colleague Richie Porte was punched.
Saying they “regretted the aggressions suffered by the leader of the overall classification”, organisers Amaury Sport Organisation and cycling’s governing body the UCI asked “crowds along the roadside to respect every rider, and the integrity of the riders and in particular the yellow jersey”.
1. Froome (GB) Team Sky 74:13:31
2. Quintana (COL) Movistar +3:10
3. Valverde (SPA) Movistar +4:09
4. Thomas (GB) Team Sky +6:34
5. Contador (SPA) Tinkoff-Saxo +6:40
6. Gesink (NED) LottoNL +7:39
7. Nibali (ITA) Astana +8:04