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"For now, our first goal is to keep the yellow jersey. But there's no big difference between 2nd and 5th on GC and I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be up there at the end of the Tour de France."

Photo: A.S.O.








16.07.2015 @ 21:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas weathered a storm of attacks on the 12th stage of the Tour de France to defend their positions on the overall standings.


Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana all tried their hand on the Plateau de Beille, but every one of those moves was annulled as Froome and Thomas asserted their authority in a rain-soaked finale.


Froome even had an attack of his own before leading Thomas and six other riders home in 10th position. That result ensured Froome defended his two minute 52 second advantage over Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) on the general classification, with Thomas 4min 3sec back in fifth position.


The stage win went to Joaquim Rodriguez after the Katusha rider had jumped from the remnants of a 22-man breakaway on the final climb of the day before taking his second success with a 1min 12sec cushion over Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).


As the Spaniard savoured his victory, Froome and Thomas sprinted home 6min 47sec behind to round off another resilient team display.


Immediately after the stage, Thomas relived the moment he chased down one of the world’s greatest climbers, and explained how he was putting Froome’s position before his own in another selfless display of climbing.


He said: “When Quintana attacked I thought ‘Oh no!’, because Richie [Porte] had just dropped back, but fortunately I had the legs to respond and slowly ride back up to him. I was buzzing after I’d chased him down and that was really good for my confidence. I rode better after that and was able to stick to consistent pace.


“I’m happy to still be up there on GC but I wasn’t even thinking about that today, it’s all about riding for Froomey, and we’ve both had a good day.


“I didn't know what to expect but I'm feeling good. The legs are good. Now I'm in the shape of my life for sure. I'm going to play it day by day. Froomie gained time on the first day and in the next two he was very strong. He was again very good today.


"I think the morale is very good in the team. Hopefully we can keep together as a unit and hopefully keep it up up to Paris. I love it when it rains like that. I really enjoy it. It's like being back home in Wales.”


As always, Froome heaped praise on his hard-working team-mates – who controlled things from beginning to end - and described the thinking behind his attack in the last 4km.


He said: "I was lucky to have Richie and Geraint with me when the attacks started and it made it a lot easier to control things with my team-mates in that position. I owe them both a beer tonight.


"I didn't expect the weather conditions to change so quickly. Personally, I prefer the heat. I was just happy to get through today's stage. I was fortunate to have Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas all the time with me in the hill. It was definitely a team effort in finding the right kind of speed all day.


“Geraint’s been really strong. We saw how good he was during that first week, and he’s been fantastic in the Pyrenees. He could definitely still be up there at the end. He’s been doing a great job for me and could get a podium or a top five at the same time. The other contenders will definitely have to look out for him as well.


"Geraint Thomas has been fantastic again today. Riding as a helper is a role I'm familiar with. I've done it in the past.


"Can he be on the podium like me with Bradley Wiggins in 2012? At this stage, nothing is impossible. For now, our first goal is to keep the yellow jersey. But there's no big difference between 2nd and 5th on GC and I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be up there at the end of the Tour de France.


“As for my attack, I made it to see who would respond, and who had the legs at that point. I was hoping one or two of the guys might drop off, but as soon as I saw the reaction from them I decided to keep it conservative and get through to the finish as best I could.


"When I accelerated myself with 4km to go, I was just testing the legs to see who was at the limit but everyone was still pretty fresh. There wasn't any attack by my rivals that was more threatening than another. I'm a bit more concerned about Nairo Quintana because from the attackers he's the closest to me on GC.


"We haven't seen Alberto Contador's explosive attacks yet but maybe it'll happen in the Alps. But I pay the same respect to all the guys who are three or four minutes down on GC. I can't let them go. They'll have opportunities to attack me until we reach Paris, maybe in the crosswinds, maybe downhill, I expect it to happen anywhere.


"I wasn't put under pressure by their accelerations today really. We have controlled. I had team-mates with me for the whole climb.


“It was a really tough day out there, especially with the weather changing. It went from hot to cold and some guys fared better with that than others. I prefer the hot weather, but you have to be able to adapt in bike racing and I’m happy to have got through it.


“There’s still a lot of racing to come but I’m pleased with where my legs are at the moment and I’m looking forward to a flat today tomorrow.”


“It’s what we expect. It’s a bike race and they’ve got to attack now, so it’s no surprise," Porte said. ""You just never know what’s going to happen, but it went quite well.”



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