Defending champion Chris Froome again reached the first rest day at the Tour de France wearing the leader’s yellow jersey. But the Team Sky rider’s lead over main rival Nairo Quintana is much narrower this time around.
After nine of 21 stages in cycling’s most prestigious race, Briton Froome leads Colombian Movistar rider Quintana, who is fourth overall, by 23 seconds.
At the same stage in 2013 and 2015, when Froome went on to claim his first and second Tour triumphs, he had advantages of about two minutes over Quintana, who is keeping his cards close to his chest so far at this year’s edition.
Froome grabbed the overall lead with a superb attack in Saturday’s eighth stage and is confident he can secure a third Tour title because he believes he has the best team backing him up.
“It really is a good place to be at the moment and I’m really happy to have the yellow jersey on my shoulders, tactically and obviously for the morale of the team,” Froome told a news conference on Monday.
“Tactically it just puts the shoe on the other foot. It’s up to the other teams now to have a go out there and try to gain back time,” added the 31-year-old.
“It means with the team that I’ve got, they’ve shown themselves over the last few days just in terms of numbers in the final that we do have the strongest team here.”
Quintana’s team mate Alejandro Valverde suggested Quintana, like Froome, was at peak form and warned the Briton not to underestimate the Colombian.
“Is Froome unbeatable at the moment? I believe Nairo is too,” Valverde said. “There’s still a long way to go on this Tour – you must attack when it’s your real time. You never know when it comes.”
Thursday’s 184-kilometer 12thstage between Montpellier and Mont Ventoux could be the next decisive clash between Froome and Quintana.