• It seems Chris Froome has become a victim of his own success, and, according to some, his team's perceived arrogance. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The heckling has become fever pitch. They're baying for blood. Little wonder the defending champion is biding his time, writes Anthony Tan.
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Cycling Central
20 Jul 2018 - 3:55 PM  UPDATED 21 Jul 2018 - 1:24 AM

Not even Lance in 2005 got this many boos.

All over a few (extra) puffs of Ventolin.

For me, the most suspenseful thing about Thursday's twelfth stage to Alpe d'Huez was not if Steven Kruijswijk would survive but whether Chris Froome would get knocked off.

And I don't mean knocked off his bike. I mean Godfather-style knocked off, knocked off.

So far, he's barely had to extend himself. And each day Thomas extends his spell in yellow is another day to ride himself into peak form.

Ever since the teams' presentation in the Vendée a fortnight ago, the hissing, harassing and heckling has taken a vile tone. Every stage start; every town, commune and department along the way; every finish - they have been there.

Boo... boo... boo... Boo... boo... boo...

And so they chant, trance-like, over and over and over.

It felt like a scene from Lord of the Flies. "Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood."

Those who booed, mostly French, bayed for the blood of the Kenyan-born Brit.

Crowd behaviour a concern on Alpe d'Huez
The crowd on the Alpe d'Huez is always one of the most iconic images of the Tour de France, but there were several negative examples of crowd interaction during Stage 12.

It was unsurprising, therefore, to see Froome not show himself till around 3.5km to go; the point at which the course was barricaded on both sides.

Then again, he did not need to. With team-mate Geraint Thomas in the golden fleece and his rivals defeated or already abandoned after Stage 11 to La Rosière on Wednesday, there was zero impetus to go on the offensive.

Contenders crumble behind Sky in the fight for yellow
It was an aggressive stage for the general classification contenders but Team Sky once again asserted its dominance at the top of the leaderboard with Geraint Thomas winning the stage and taking the yellow jersey.

Unlike Froome's monumental mountain escape two days from the finish of this year's Giro d'Italia, the audacious move of Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was not a bid to win the race. It was simply an attempt to make an otherwise boring back-half of the Tour a little less boring. In that respect, it was mission accomplished.

Team Sky has the best two riders. Team Sky has the best domestiques. Team Sky has the best team. Team Sky know how to win the Tour de France.

Why would the situation change now?

Only disaster will make the 105th Tour something other than a race for third. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), third at 1'50", is an awfully nice guy, but don't expect him to pull a rabbit out of the hat like Froome at the Giro. No one rides according to their power meter more than him. He is not capable of such an effort. Anyway, the Skybots would simply track him down then destroy him, like they did to Kruijswijk.

Adventurous Kruijswijk thwarted as Thomas doubles on Alpe d'Huez
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas defended his yellow jersey with a victory on the 175.5km stage from Bourg-Saint-Maurice ending up on the iconic Alpe d’Huez, to extend his overall lead.

The biggest unknown is how far the Welshman can go. He said all along "I'm here for Froomey" and it showed on the Alpe: when his Colombian team-mate Egan Bernal swung off, he assumed the position at the front, pacesetting his leader. Unlike the internecine situation between Bradley Wiggins and Froome at the 2012 Tour, there appears not a whiff of animosity, only a respectful friendship; the (French) press would yearn for something more sinister but by all accounts it doesn't exist.

Froome is probably delighted with the current situation - not only for the Welshman's success but most importantly, that the pressure's on someone else's shoulders. So far, he's barely had to extend himself. And each day Thomas extends his spell in yellow is another day to sit back, as he rides himself into peak form. Besides, the maillot jaune is a massive target for those voracious roadside fans; and so if he only takes yellow with one day remaining, that being the Stage 20 individual time trial, all the better.

I'm predicting it will come before, though, somewhere in the Pyrenees.

Just wait to see those bloodthirsty vampires then. They'll be livid.

Prepare La Gendarmerie...