Stage victor Britain’s Geraint Thomas and new overall leader celebrates on the podium after the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France.
Greg Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, went into Wednesday with the yellow jersey and a 2:22 lead, which he had tripled on the first mountain day Tuesday.
Thomas beat Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) to the finish line of the 175.5 km course by two seconds to claim his second consecutive stage win on Thursday. The spoilers’ group dwindled further with the news that 2014 Tour victor Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is unable to continue.
Froome himself would subsequently follow a move from UAE Team Emirates rider Dan Martin and finished third, crossing the line just behind Dumoulin, both riders 20 seconds behind Thomas.
While Froome survived, 2014 Tour victor Nibali hit the deck as the leading group tried to weave their way through the thick crowds, nearly taking Thomas with him.
With Thomas and Froome leading the peleton, the Team Sky riders started to close in on Kruijswijk as they entered the twisting, 21-turn ascent to Alpe d’Heuz.
“Obviously it’s not nice (the boos) but everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we need to be safe”, Thomas said.
Yet Thomas, a former track cycling Olympic champion like 2012 Tour victor Bradley Wiggins, has yet to prove he can handle the pressure of a grand tour.
Kruijswijk’s lead dropped to three minutes by the time Nibali was brought back, and the attacks continued apace as Quintana – to the delight of a Colombian fan chasing – launched his first attack. “I’m going to try to chill out and enjoy it”, said Thomas.
“Don’t touch the riders, let us race, don’t spit at us, have a bit of decency”.
For Froome, the 158.5-km trek from Annecy was one day ticked off his to-do list as the Briton remained in a ideal position to become the first rider in 20 years to achieve a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double. That gave him extra time to soak up the applause from the French fans for the country’s first victor in this race, two days after France won the World Cup.
“I’ve always got my eyes and ears open”, he said.
Yet last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Uran lost time as he struggled on the last climb.
The next truly decisive day could come on Stage 17, an outlier at just 40 miles long with a summit finish on the Col du Portet.
“It was a hard day, especially in the last 30 kilometres, when I was alone, but that makes this moment even more special and lovely”.