Chris Froome survives assault in the Pyrenees on 11th Tour de France stage

Chris Froome survived a string of attacks on the 11th stage of the Tour de France yesterday on a day Joaquim Rodriguez claimed his second mountaintop victory of the race.

Chris Froome survives assault in the Pyrenees on 11th Tour de France stage

The 36-year-old Katusha rider had been part of the day’s break and he held on for a memorable win to go alongside his stage three victory on the Mur de Bretagne in Belgium last week.

Yesterday, he attacked fellow breakaway men Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) before skipping across to lone leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx–Quick-Step).

He would then drop the reigning world champion Kwiatkowski also on the way to a thoroughly convincing win but it wasn’t enough to vault him back into the frame for the overall, as he still trails Froome by almost 14 minutes.

There was no overall shake-up in the general classification but there were plenty of late surges by those closest to race leader Froome on the final ramp up to the line at Plateau di Beille in the Pyrenees.

Big-name contenders such as Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (both Movistar) launched some stinging attacks while a brief foray by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) was also brought back by Froome’s Sky team-mates Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas.

The man in yellow didn’t look as imperious as he did when he won on La Pierre Saint Martin two days ago but he did an effective containing job on his biggest challengers.

Valverde grabbed one second with a strong sprint to the line, crossing the finish six minutes 46 behind Rodriguez.

Froome, Quintana, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) and Contador were next in, ending what was a wet and cold ascent to the line.

The general classification remained largely unchanged, with Froome, van Garderen, Quintana, Valverde, Thomas and Contador continuing to occupy places first through sixth.

Afterwards, Quintana said he felt confident that his 3:09 deficit to Froome would be wiped out when the race hits the Alps next week.

“We are going to take the jersey with an attack or just to ride Froome off our wheels in the mountain stages,” Quintana told reporters.

“Our team is strong, we are going well, also with Alejandro [Valverde], who is going very well. No, the race isn’t over. If I’m able to, I’ll ride clear.”

Ireland’s Nicolas Roche did another sterling job in service of his Team Sky leader Froome and was with him for a large chunk of that final climb before peeling over to the side.

For Dan Martin and Sam Bennett, it was a case of recovering and getting inside the time-limit respectively.

Martin was clearly exhausted from his stunning ride the day before while the day was never going to be one that suited Bennett and he came over the line in a bunch of around 40 riders around 36 minutes down.

Today’s stage takes the riders 198 kilometres from Muret to Rodez and there are three categorised climbs in the final 60 kilometres of the race.

If the drama was tension-filled on the Tour proper yesterday, it was as bad off it as disgraced Texan Lance Armstrong showed up for a charity bike ride.

And no sooner had he emerged from his hotel to start a planned ride to help raise awareness for leukaemia was he heckled by reporters who quizzed the morality and timing of his visit.

“I shouldn’t be here? Laurent Jalabert is working on the Tour, no? We were all riding in an unfortunate era,” he said in reference to his former rival who was also a doper.

“They’re all here: Jalabert... No? Why am I not welcome? Because I’m a doper? If that were the rule, the caravan would almost be empty.

“I don’t mean the riders in this Tour, but in the press room, the commentary boxes, team cars. [To say that my bluff was bigger than others] is not very well informed. No disrespect to those guys. We all rode in an unfortunate era.

“But if you’re going to apply a standard, it has to be universal.”

Meanwhile, Nathan Pernot made it two stage wins in two days at the Scott Bicycles Junior Tour of Ireland after getting the verdict in the bunch sprint that decided yesterday’s 97-kilometre third leg from Mountshannon to Whitegate in Co. Clare.

The Frenchman, riding for the domestic NRPT-Magnet.ie team got the better of promising first year junior Dion McCarthy of Munster-Tarrant Skoda, with American Ian Keogh of the Hot Tubes squad rounding out the podium.

The latter’s teammate, Gage Hecht, still holds a 13-second advantage overall from Corkman Simon Tuomey of the Irish national team with Jack Maddux, also of Hot Tubes, on the same time 3rd overall.

Today’s stage takes them 113 kilometres from Ennis to Lisdoonvarna and the race concludes on Sunday.

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