Chris Froome ready for final Tour de France mountain fight
Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2013, stage 19
Chris Froome will see his rivals race for podium spots today in Annecy-Semnoz while he secures his overall title, according to Team Sky.
"If Saxo-Tinkoff really wants to win the Tour, they need to go full gas and risk everything but I don't think that's the case," Sky sports director, Nicolas Portal told Cycling Weekly. "They showed [yesterday] that they want to control the last climb so that it's not too easy for Nairo Quintana to attack. They will just ride and play for the podium."
Froome's top spot on the podium appears secure. He has a five-minute buffer over a group of four separated by one minute: Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) second at 5-11, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) third at 5-32, Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) fourth at 5-44 and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) fifth at 5-58. The rest of the riders are eight-plus minutes behind.
"I hope it's just a race for second place but if you start thinking that then you are in trouble. We'll go in there with the fear of God in us and try to defend our situation," Sky team principal David Brailsford explained.
"There's a lot to play for: the team GC, all the podium positions. There's a lot of riders in the top five looking for the top three."
If Froome survives today, he is home free with nothing but a flat stage into Paris separating him and the Tour de France win.
The stage to Annecy-Semnoz covers four smaller climbs, a category 1 climb to Mont Revard and the final 10.7-kilometre kick to the finish.
"It's a hard climb, hard all the way up. There's not any flat parts. Before the climb, it's also steep and the climb starts with a narrow road. I expect the bunch to sprint towards it," Portal added.
"Straight away, the first kilometre is 10 or 11 per cent, and then it goes down to eight to nine per cent. However, it is always between around eight to 11 per cent. It's quite consistent, but hard.
"The best thing to do is just to time trial to the top, make sure Froome doesn't blow up or have a bad day. It will be a big fight from the bottom for second place. Quintana is so focused on second place and his Movistar team will make an aggressive race from the start to the finish.
"We just need to stay aware. It's not so complicated on the climb, it's just the legs."
Froome feels comfortable with his lead.
"It's going to be very hard for someone to take five minutes off me," Froome said in the media mixed zone. "Having said that, I don't want to be too complacent. I have to stay switched on until [this] evening.
"I just have one last day to focus on the GC and the ride into Paris."
Tour de France 2013: Cycling Weekly's coverage index