Yesterday on the climb to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc we witnessed two sides of bike racing. On one hand, there was the instinctive and stylish attack of Romain Bardet. On the other hand, we saw the judgement and prudence of Chris Froome as he fought his way back to the GC leaders group after a crash.
The farce on Mont Ventoux seems a long time ago now, and I hope that if only one climb is remembered from this year’s race, it will be Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. At the finish line Froome put his arm around Wout Poels in a gesture of gratitude, and while one could argue that Poels saved Froome’s Tour on those brutal slopes, the exercising of prudence goes a lot further than the way Poels paced his bruised leader. There was the moment when Poels and Froome came to the front of the group and rode side by side, talking, thereby sending the message to all the others that they weren’t in trouble. There was the decision not to wait for a spare bike – Froome calculated this would put him in more trouble than staying on a team-mate’s bike. And there was the calm, controlled way Team Sky rode throughout the stage, which meant when Froome did have a crisis, he had three strong domestiques with him.
The moments that are remembered in bike races are those of passion, of drama, of luck – good or bad. But it’s in the exercising of prudence that most races are won. Team Sky have become the ultimate Tour de France team because they plan everything, and when something doesn’t go to plan they make the right decisions.
Of course the most prudent decision made by Team Sky was getting Wout Poels to sign a contract. The man from Limburg brought home their first monument in Liege, and yesterday he nursed the maillot jaune into Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, albeit on someone else’s shoulders.
Photo by Léon van Bon