• Froome has hit back at accusations that GC teams are making stage finishes more dangerous, arguing that they can't afford to lose seconds. (AAP)Source: AAP
Chris Froome has admitted that GC teams don't want to be at the pointy end of sprint finishes, but have no other choice if they are to keep their leaders safe.
Cycling Central

6 Jul 2016 - 8:07 AM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2016 - 8:08 AM

Froome was responding to accusations by sprinters including Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) that general classification teams are making sprint finishes more dangerous by interfering with leadout trains at the end of flat stages.

The two-time Tour winner explained that GC teams have no other choice.

"It makes for a lot of stress - we don't want to be up there," said Froome.

"We want the sprinters to do their thing and not be in the way, but when Grand Tours can be won or lost by seconds we've got to be up there fighting.

"That's the nature of our sport," he added. "When there's so much at stake - a stage win at the Tour means so much to so many people - guys are going to put their bodies on the line for that."

Time to restore rough justice?

Cavendish criticised the assertive way in which GC teams have ridden in the final kilometres of flat stages this year after winning Stage 3 of this year's race.

"I think the mentality has changed a little bit. Some guys, not all GC (general classification) guys, would drop back [in the finale]," said Cavendish. "Splits happened and they didn't want to be caught behind the split [in the build-up to the sprints]."

Sagan also criticised bunch etiquette in recent Tours, saying it was 'as if they lost their brains'.

"When I did my first Tour de France it was a different race. Now everyone rides as if they don't care about life," said the world champion and current yellow jersey holder after Stage 2. "Last year it was very bad and this year is very bad."

"There are stupid crashes in the group. Before there was respect; when some did something, they threw bottles at him or beat him with a pump but cycling has lost this."

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford has also floated that the rules could be changed to protect GC riders in the final kilometres of sprint stages. At present, riders do not lose time if they are delayed by a crash in the final 3km of a flat stage, instead being awarded the same time as the group they were with. Brailsford has suggested this protection could be extended to 5km from the finish.

Stage 5 may see concerns over dangerous riding subside as the Tour enters hillier terrain for the first time. While Froome commented that it is still too early to see a 'real GC battle', he suggested that 'there will be time gaps'.

"It will be similar to stage two but harder, more selective," said Froome. "There will probably be a few tired legs out there - even though these days have been relatively easy."

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