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ORANGE, France (VN) — Two stage wins might be enough for Chris Froome (Sky) as the Tour de France enters its decisive final week.
Despite having more stages tailored for Froome’s qualities, the Tour’s GC leader said defending the yellow jersey will take priority over everything else.
“For us, it’s about keeping the yellow jersey. We’re not on a mission to win every mountain top finish,” Froome said Monday in a rest-day press conference. “Our mission is to defend the yellow jersey.”
Froome enters the final phase of the centenary Tour with a commanding lead to his closest adversaries, with a 4:14 gap to Bauke Mollema (Belkin), and 4:25 to third-place Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).
Froome has won two of the three decisive stages so far in this Tour, winning mountain top finales at Ax 3 Domaines and Mont Ventoux. He placed second in the individual time trial at Mont-Saint-Michel.
When asked if he would take aim at a “grand slam,” trying to win the two remaining mountain top summits at l’Alpe d’Huez and Semnoz, Froome said not necessarily.
“We are going to see how the race unfolds. I am not going to say I am going to target those days to win them,” he said. “There are a lot of eager racers in the peloton, with a lot still to prove.”
With such a tight grip on yellow, Froome suggested that he would be content to ride defensively, opening the door for other riders to go for the remaining stage victories.
Despite such a commanding lead, Froome said he does not want to let his guard down, emphasizing that staying out of trouble will be the priority between Tuesday’s 16th stage and the final run to Paris on Sunday under the lights.
The Sky captain admitted that losing Vasili Kiryienka and Edvald Boasson Hagen have put the remaining six support riders under additional pressure.
“We lost a lot of horsepower,” he said. “Since then, it’s been about managing the guys we have, and trying to get though each day the best we can, and managing our resources. The guys have lifted themselves. They are giving all their energy to defend my yellow jersey. It’s up to me to repay that.”
Froome said his victory Sunday up Mont Ventoux while wearing the yellow jersey, a feat only matched by Eddy Merckx, will remain something special.
“Especially for a GC rider and a climber, winning on Mont Ventoux is like a sprinter winning on the Champs-Élysées,” he said.