As per usual, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest, but Alberto Contador has nonetheless indicated there will be a day before Paris where he will boot caution not just out the back door, but flush restraint down the toilet and out to sea. From Chorges, Anthony Tan believes he knows when that day will come.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Tuesday in Gap, at the press conference for the maillot jaune, I put this question to The Kid from Kenya:

'Chris, it seems that the move by Contador today was not a calculated risk but a real risk. Do you think that the greatest danger that you face in trying to win this race is from riders taking what I would call uncalculated risks, because that move (by Contador) was very dangerous and could have led to you falling off your bike?'

"Definitely. I… I personally think he (Contador) or (other) teams are starting to get desperate now, and are therefore taking uncalculated risks," he said.

A few questions before, Froome explained what happened on the descent of the Col de Manse, whose summit lay 11.5 kilometres from the finish, and where he found himself isolated, before teammate Richie Porte unearthed a second wind to latch back on.

"It seemed that (Roman) Kreuziger and Contador were taking it in turns to come from the back with a bit of acceleration and try to force a small gap on the descent, hoping that we'd lay off and give them a bit more space.

"On this particular corner, Contador just came through fairly quickly and he struggled to hold on to his bike, to keep control of it, and he crashed just in front of me. I went off to the left, slightly off the road. But there was a lip there, so I had to unclip to get back on to the road."

"If you ask me, it was dangerous for Alberto to do that. There was no need for it."

Some six hours later, when he should have been fast asleep with his roomie Richie, Froomey was still stewing over it, because at five minutes to 11p.m., he pushed out his first tweet of two Tweets that evening:

Contador almost went over his head, Chris, or did you just go over your head?

"I've got no disrespect for Alberto," he said Wednesday in Chorges, asked what sort of message he was trying to send out, "but yesterday I felt he was being a bit reckless on the descent.

"He was taking risks, purposefully, to try and get away from us. And I felt there were several times where he was on the limits, going through the corners. And one or two corners later, he was lying on the ground… and that also put me in danger. I think, at the end of the day, we've got to remember this is a bike race, and to really take risks like that, where it could end up with someone leaving the Tour or going home, personally, I think it was unnecessary to take those kinds of risks."

Certain things are clearly getting to Froome.

As each day comes and goes, and his chasmal advantage grows, further fuelling speculation – predominantly on social media and in Internet forums – Team Sky must be doping, the laidback exterior is being shed like the moulting of a snake, revealing a side of him that always existed but rarely shows in public.

But perhaps that's also leading to slightly irrational thought processes, because as far as I'm concerned, Contador did nothing wrong Tuesday.

It may have been an uncalculated risk, it may have been dangerous, but it certainly wasn't against race regulations. Nor was it in the unwritten rules of the road, which forbid those who dare to attack the maillot jaune because of a mechanical, for example, or while answering the call of nature.

"These are the circumstances. It's a bike race and the game is on – on the climbs and on the descents," Contador answered defiantly, asked if he challenged the spirit of fair play, by attacking on a descent.

I was reminded by something Daniel Martin of Garmin-Sharp told me, when, ten days ago, he won an action-packed ninth stage to Bagnères-de-Bigorre. "We wanted to avoid the procession to Paris that we endured last year. I'm a cycling fan, too, and I wanted to make the race exciting," he said of his motives that day.

"And I thought we saw a weakened Sky. Chris (Froome) was isolated for a lot of the stage. I was quite surprised at the tactics of the other teams, that they didn't attack him more. I think it was a massive opportunity for the likes of Saxo and Movistar and (other) teams to really attack Chris today. And they seemed to wait for the climbs to attack him – and I think that's the worst time possible."

Froome's rivals have all conceded he is the best climber, by some margin – so why would you attack when the road goes up? Particularly given Sky Procycling's modus operandi in the mountains, which has the dispiriting effect of diffusing uphill offensives.

Love or loathe him, Contador cares little (read: nothing) for the minor places on the Paris podium, unlike, say, Belkin's Bauke Mollema or Nairo Quintana of Movistar, whose best bet is the young rider's jersey. The Spaniard has said so, ad nauseum, all race long. And keeps saying so: "For me, it's not important to finish second or tenth," he said Monday, at his team's rest day press conference.

"There is a certain stage where I want to see what happens, and it could be a good day to try to take my chance. The rest will be based on how the race develops, but if I see an opportunity I'll take it. I'll try (to win)."

Contador clarified after Tuesday's stage to Gap that "this is not the stage I said yesterday, it may be another". That leaves tomorrow's stage to Alpe d'Huez, Friday to Le Grand-Bornand, or The Last Chance Saloon, Saturday's penultimate stage around Annecy.

The Alpe is too predictable. And with a four-and-a-half minute deficit to Froome, Annecy seems too late to recoup his accumulated losses, not to mention the stage is just 125km long and Team Sky will completely empty the tank to control the day from start to finish.

Which leaves the 204.5km leg from Bourg-d'Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand, boasting a pair of hors cat̩gorie and Cat. 1 climbs apiece, and a Cat. 2 ascent Рmaking for a total 66.8km uphill!

To paraphrase a great headline from L'Equipe after last Friday's windswept stage to Saint-Amand-Montrond, the nineteenth stage is 'Une étape de folie' (A stage made for madness).

With he and teammate Kreuziger now occupying the two other podium spots, Saxo-Tinkoff find themselves in perfect place to launch a counter-offensive. "Tomorrow and the next days we will continue our plan and follow our objective, which is to win Tour de France. Naturally, it's an advantage tactically to have two cards to play on the following stages but we have to do it intelligently. There are quite a few options," said their sport director at the Tour, Fabrizio Guidi.

"For me," said Contador, "it isn't a great motivation to do the race calmly behind the wheel in the bunch. Whenever I see a chance, I'll grab it, either at the beginning or at the end of the race. And we'll see what the final result in Paris will be."