Chris Froome put in a huge performance on stage 12 of the Tour de France, finishing in third place after a long day at the front on the queen stage of the race.
“This feels like a small victory for me. It was amazing to be up there right in the middle of the action again. I believe I can go to sleep with a smile on my face this evening”, Froome said after crossing the line.
For the first time since his career-threatening crash in 2019, Froome was back fighting for victory in the Tour de France for Israel – Premier Tech. Knowing that today’s stage was a good day for a breakaway, the 37-year-old Brit was eager to get up the road and on the infamous Col du Galibier, Froome attacked on his own, trying to bridge across to the leading group.
“I took my chance probably about three kilometers from the top of the Col du Galibier. Jumbo Visma were controlling the gap at about one and a half minutes and I heard on the radio that Pidcock had attacked on the first part of the descent and was coming across to me. The two of us worked together and managed to bridge across to the front”, Froome explained after the stage and continued:
“Everyone seemed to be working together pretty well. But already the pace started increasing towards the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer and it came down to a group of just five of us with Pidcock, Ciccone, Meintjes, Powless and myself. From there, to me, Tom stood out as the strongest rider in the group with the way he was riding. He just looked as if he was easiest on the pedals and was the guy to watch.”
On the early slopes of Alpe d’Huez, Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) put in a powerful attack. Managing his effort, Froome didn’t try to follow the young Brit right away but instead kept his own pace on the steep gradients.
“I’ve made mistakes on this climb before, I’ve got carried away at the bottom too many times, so when Tom went on the earlier slopes I thought ‘Okay, I’m just going to pace it as best I can’ and I think I held them there for about four or five kilometers, Meintjes was probably only about ten seconds in front of me, and then seconds again to Tom.”
In the final kilometers, Pidcock started to drift away and ultimately, he won the stage, while Froome crossed the line in third place, with a smile on his face, showing that he’s back at the top again after his long way back.
“I simply didn’t have the legs to give any more than to take third on the stage. But I can be really happy with that ride today. It wasn’t the victory I’d hoped for and it would have been amazing to be able to put my hands in the air on a stage like this, but if I take a minute just to think about where I have come from in the last three years and also where I have come from since last year. Last year, I was battling just to finish these kinds of stages in the Tour, in the gruppetto every day, so to be up there fighting for the stage win, or at least up there with the top guys, on a big stage like today, I can be very happy and very proud.”
Tomorrow, the Tour de France continues with a lumpy stage to Saint-Étienne. After today’s inspiring ride from Froome, the Israel – Premier Tech riders are eager to get in the mix once again.