Tue, Jul 18, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Bardet denies AG2R missed an opportunity


Team Sky`s Chris Froome of Britain, front second right, crosses a bridge in the 15th stage of the Tour de France from Laissac-Severac l’Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay on Sunday.

Photo: AP

Romain Bardet on Sunday insisted he was happy with his team, despite missing an opportunity to put Tour de France leader Chris Froome in serious difficulty on a 15th stage won by Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema in a solo breakaway.

Team Sky’s Froome had a mechanical problem 50km from the end of the stage just as Bardet’s AG2R-La Mondiale team was pushing the pace on the front of the peloton.

The problem had initially seen Froome distanced before he finally had to stop to change a wheel, taking one from teammate Michal Kwiatkowski before continuing.

At that point he was 50 seconds behind his main rivals for overall victory, but while Froome’s teammates dropped back to help pace him back up to the peloton, Bardet’s team failed to set a high enough pace to distance the Briton once and for all.

“We knew that after the climb it wasn’t ideal for big attacks, so we had to really dig deep on the climb,” said the Frenchman, who is third, 23 seconds back. “The team really worked hard and we can be proud of what we did. I’m doing my best, it’s really tough, it’s the biggest race in the world. You have to stay humble before the event, and I’m just trying to do my best and we’ll see where that takes me in a week’s time.”

For many observers, though, it seemed to be an opportunity missed for Froome’s main rivals, who could have worked together on the climb to prevent him regaining contact, something he himself feared.

“If I didn’t get back, I wouldn’t expect to be in yellow this evening,” Froome said. “I knew if I didn’t get back to the group before the top of the climb, we could be looking at some pretty big losses — so it was critical.”

Bardet was one of the riders to put in a dig once Froome had rejoined the leaders 30km from the finish, but that was without really committing.

Asked why his rivals did not capitalize on his misfortune, Froome said he felt they were more interested in getting rid of Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who cracked on the climb and went on to lose almost four minutes.

“There was a lot happening in that front group, of course Nairo Quintana had been dropped. A lot of people in that group were happy to try to distance him,” Froome said. “Certainly in the final, once we hit the category 4 climb with 14km to go, Romain Bardet tried, Rigoberto [Uran] tried over the top — I wouldn’t say the GC [general classification] guys didn’t try today. They certainly did, also Romain Bardet on the main climb tried over the top, but with the climb being so far from the finish, I think everyone was hesitant to make such a big effort knowing there was a lot of road to cover.”

In the end, Quintana dropped from eighth to 11th, 6 minutes, 16 seconds behind Froome.

“The head is what guides you, but if the body doesn’t respond, it doesn’t respond,” the dejected Colombian said. “We’ll keep fighting and keep going forward, always without giving up.”

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