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Chris Froome, yellow jersey, Tour de France, 2016, pic - Sirotti

Racing

Comment: Chris Froome, the complete rider, charges clear in yellow jersey

Team Sky's defending Tour de France champion opens up big lead on GC rivals after individual time trial

When we all signed off for the weekend seven days ago, the Tour de France was finely balanced – Greg van Avermaet had a big solo lead but there were just seven seconds between the main contenders for the yellow jersey further back.

Since then, Chris Froome has descended, climbed, sprinted and time trialled his way into the race lead – and now boasts a commanding advantage of his own overall.

Nearest challenger Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is 1’47” adrift of the Team Sky man, fellow Brit Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) is another 58 seconds back and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), fancied to be Froome’s main rival at the Tour, has just a second less than three minutes to claw back.

The Tour is not over, of course – there are eight stages still to be contested, including summit finishes on Finhaut-Emosson and Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc and a mountain time trial – but Froome leads because he has proved himself across the board at this Tour.

Chris Froome, Team Sky, yellow jersey, aero, time trial, Tour de France, 2016, stage 13, pic - Sirotti
Chris Froome finished second in the individual time trial to move clear of his GC rivals (pic: Sirotti)

We have already written about how his attacking style has ignited the race and killed off talk of Team Sky’s so-called boring approach to racing ruining the Tour, but it is also champion’s material.

In the last six stages, Froome has won one, finished second twice, led the GC men up a huge summit finish in Andorra and would have been placed higher than 25th on Mont Ventoux were it not for the crash which left him running part-way up the mountain on foot.

He has impressed across all terrains, stayed safe on the windy days, been aggressive, made the racing and appears to have no chinks in his armour at all.

Chris Froome, descent, Team Sky, Col de Peyresourde, pic - Sirotti
Descending was supposed to be Chris Froome’s weakness, until he attacked his rivals to win stage eight in Bagneres-de-Luchon (pic: Sirotti)

Descending was supposed to be his chief weakness, but he stunned his rivals with his attack on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde, which granted him the yellow jersey in the first place.

His attentiveness, and ability to stick at the front of the race when crosswinds battered the peloton, meant he was perfectly placed to join Peter Sagan’s attack on stage 11, meanwhile, and committed fully to the move too.

In the individual time trial, while his rivals struggled in the wind, Froome showed the prowess which earned him an Olympic bronze medal in London four years ago to claim second on the day.

He was second in the rolling time trial at the 2013 Tour de France too, behind Tony Martin on that occasion, which had similar consequences for his overall standing.

Man-to-man, in the mountains, Quintana – it is fair to say – is the better climber, but Froome is the more complete rider and for the second year running that is paying big dividends.

There will be plenty of optimism heading into the weekend from fans of Froome, British cycle sport and Team Sky, though it is far too earlier to call the race over yet – events on Mont Ventoux showed how fickle fortune can be during cycling’s biggest race.

However, Froome’s performances in this second week of the Tour de France have been the performances of a champion.

Chris Froome, salute, Team Sky, pic - Sirotti
Chris Froome has proved himself as a complete rider at the 2016 Tour de France (pic: Sirotti)

He fully merits his place in the yellow jersey. Now for more of the same, and for good fortune in the final eight stages.

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