That’s the sentiment on the ground, where Geraint Thomas has agreed the British outfit has a mental advantage over the competition on the eve of the second rest day.
“The way we’re riding, the way Froomey is riding, it’s got to be demoralising for the other teams in a way,” Thomas said. “Yesterday [stage 15 to Culoz] I had a puncture, Sergio [Henao] had a bad day and [Mikel] Landa wasn’t feeling great but we still had two guys there with Froomey, so that’s got to play on their minds.”
Thomas would not go so far to say the race was already won but, in a frank assessment of the competition, suggested only two opponents may risk their current position on the general classification and attack yellow jersey Froome.
“It’s strange how the top 10 is still pretty compact,” Thomas said. “Obviously Froomey has a nice lead [one minute and 47 seconds] but the rest of them are all still pretty close. In the past it seems like there has been bigger gaps and people have given it more of a go.”
The racing in the second phase of the Tour was conducive to Thomas’s assessment with Froome’s chief rivals and current second and third overall, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and white jersey Adam Yates, the 23-year-old climber Orica-BikeExchange is blooding, opting to mark wheels rather than concertedly attack the defending champion.
“If you take Yatesy, he’s just going to do what he can to hold that position, he’s not going to risk everything to try and win if he can stay on the podium. You can’t really have a go at him for that,” Thomas furthered.
“It’s only really Quintana and [teammate Alejandro] Valverde that might risk having a go."
[Romain] Bardet is still close to the podium, would he risk everything to get on it and maybe drop out of the top 10 with a big attack?" added Thomas. It’s a tough one. We’re happy with how we’re feeling, how we’re going and Froomey is really good.”
Froome surprised in the first phase of the Tour, going on the offensive to gain time before his team reverted to a practiced defensive strategy in the second week, sitting at the front of the bunch and, with Astana, putting in hard and fast turns that hurt the main group.
Tangible anticipation for the third phase of the Tour in the Alps has now turned to bare hope that someone will risk something to take it to Sky.
The question remains, however, if Quintana (fourth overall) Valverde (fifth overall) Richie Porte (BMC Racing) et al have simply left their runs too late, or if such conjecture is premature. Rival squads are talking about risk management, over when and where they could strike. They wouldn’t necessarily give such intelligence away but ‘risk’ is becoming part of the vernacular around some team buses.
“I think the toughest hilltop is the one after the rest day [stage 17] but then obviously there are still three big days after that so for sure something is going to happen," said Thomas. "People are going to have bad days and somebody is going to be good and attack."
"Hopefully we’re on the good side.”
Asked if he was confident of Sky taking the yellow jersey all the way to Paris, Thomas concluded: “I think so.”