• Quintana hasn't been able to match it with Froome so far (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The 37.5 kilometre time trial in the Ardeche was yet another win for Chris Froome (Sky) in the general classification (GC) battle. With his 2nd place on the stage he took time on all his rivals for the yellow jersey.
By
Cycling Central

16 Jul 2016 - 11:29 AM 

With the attacking tactics of Froome in the first half of the Tour taking many observers and seemingly other riders by surprise, the whole field now finds themselves well adrift of the two-time Tour de France winner. So where to from here for the other big names?

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) 2nd +1'47

Race to date

Bauke Mollema only had middling form for the 2016 season coming into the race, but his Tour de France performances have always been solid. His three top ten finishes in the last three editions of the Tour speak to his quality, but nonetheless it is surprising to see the Dutchman as the best of the rest. He is just hitting his straps in the race, with his best performances coming in the last two stages. 

Ambitions from here

Whilst a podium from Mollema would be a superb result, he was clearly disappointed with being unable to put the pressure on Chris Froome after the crash, so he may have ambitions to go one better. A one minute 47 second advantage will be no mean feat to bridge, but he is the next cab off the rank should Froome falter. Froome lost just under two minutes to Quintana in the last week of last year's Tour so Mollema could yet cause a boilover.

Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) 3rd +2'45

Race to date

Adam Yates has impressed with his maturity and improvement on his past showings at the Tour so far. Always regarded, along with his twin brother Simon, as a potential Grand Tour winner, he has shown that he is much a rider of the present as the future.

His climbing has been nearly on par with the best in the race and even in the time trial, where Yates has struggled in the past, he performed above expectations, alongside better-credentialed riders like Porte, Quintana and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo). Yates is now comfortably ensconced in the white jersey for the best young rider with a three minute three second advantage over Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida).

Ambitions from here

Orica-BikeExchange went into the race with the stated goals of stage-hunting, but in Yates they have their first chance at a Tour de France podium position. He is still young and can't be expected to have the recovery powers over a three week Grand Tour like the experienced stars of the sport, so he will need all the support possible to maintain his GC position.  

Yates has been playing it coy about his status as a GC contender, but now seems to have embraced the title. It will be tough defend his overall position from here on, particularly if the other contenders decide that Froome is too far ahead and instead opt to ride for the podium. He has surprised everyone so far though and that could well continue for the rest of the Tour.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 4th +2'59

Race to date

It was a conservative first half of the Tour for the diminuitive Colombian with everyone expecting that he had plenty left in the tank for when the race got to Mont Ventoux. His showing there was unimpressive, with a few timid attacks easily covered by Sky's Wout Poels, before he was dropped by the acceleration of Froome. His time trial wasn't the best and he now trails Froome by just under three minutes.

Ambitions from here

The good news for Quintana fans is that he always does his best riding in the third week of a Grand Tour and he is in a better position than last year at the same stage. He still gave Froome a nasty scare in the final stages and this time he will be have potential allies above him on the leaderboard who Sky will also have to watch. 

He's unlikely to be content to settle for a podium spot and will continue pushing for the win. For him to win, he'll have to ride aggressively and thankfully, there remains plenty of opportunity for that with the mountain time trial and the stages in the Alps all potential springboards for the Movistar rider to take back time.

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) 7th +4'04

Race to date

It has been a surprisingly subdued Tour for the normally aggressive Bardet and he has been climbing conservatively to limit his losses so far. His poor time trial was largely what was expected of the Frenchman over that course, so his Tour will come down to how well he goes in the final week.

Ambitions from here

His second in the Dauphine has shown that he is in very good form at the moment and you can expect some fireworks in the Alps from Bardet. He has said that he hopes to move up on the general classification after getting this time trial behind him and his best opportunity may be to attack on the descents, where he has been successful in the past. 

Richie Porte (BMC) 8th +4'27

Race to date

The Australian has been climbing with the best when the going has got tough and may even be the best climber at the race. Porte's well documented dramas with puncturing and motorbikes were the only reason that the Australian had conceded significant time on the general classification until the time trial. For a accomplished time-triallist, he wouldn't have been happy with the missed opportunity to move up further in the standings and it was only really poor rides from Rodriguez (Katusha), Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) and Aru (Astana) that allowed the Tasmanian to move up.

Ambitions from here

There's still very little reason to doubt Porte's ability to take back time on the climbs and he is within striking distance of a podium position. Four and a half minutes looks a bridge too far to the so far dominant Froome and it will take a bad day from the Sky captain for his former lieutenant to move into contention for the win. 

His best ever Grand Tour peformance is on the line here and he'll have every scrap of motivation necessary to push through to Paris.

Shifting to stage-hunting

There are a number of riders that will be seriously disappointed with the way their GC bids have panned out to date and will look to change their focus to hunting for stage win opportunities in the mountains.

Fabio Aru (Astana) hasn't completely dropped off the radar, but he'll be looking to show off at the front of the race, rather than riding to an anonymous top 10 finish.

Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) is another who has consistently lost time and after a really poor time trial he will be fully concerned with trying to get up the road and adding to his two previous stage wins at the Tour.

The same will probably go for Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) who have been in freefall down the standings after initially impressing. Both are very canny cyclists, who will likely have a few stages earmarked for them to target whilst maintaining their GC position as much as possible on others.

Hanging tough

It's going to be a tough balancing act for the likes of Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) for their ambitions look they'll be less important than the team's for the rest of the race.

In BMC's case they seem to have anointed Porte as the team leader despite van Garderen consistently sitting in a higher position. Porte will have to overtake his team-mate to continue his surge up the leaderboard and there has been little of the one-two punch that was promised at the start of the Tour.

With Valverde, it is clear that he is going much better than maybe even he expected at the start of the race. He has been going off the front, forcing Sky to chase him down and still maintaining a strong challenge on the GC, where he sits in 5th. Maybe Movistar will shift their tactics from being all about Quintana to more of a two-pronged attack.

There's still plenty of scope for movement in the standings at this year's Tour and the third week always throws up surprises. Given how tight the battle with Froome and Quintana got last year despite looking out of reach, it is still very possible that a major shake-up is in store in the battle for yellow.