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Is Froome cycling away with it?

It is still early days at the Tour de France but the runaway leader and race favourite shows no sign of slowing down.

Last Modified: 08 Jul 2013 15:37
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Froome, in the yellow jersey, is almost two minutes ahead of most likely rival Contador [GALLO/GETTY]

Given the dominant way Chris Froome is riding, he could take a big step toward winning the Tour de France on Wednesday.

That is when Froome gets the chance to extend his lead over the likes of two-time champion Alberto Contador, 2010 winner Andy Schleck and his successor Cadel Evans in the Tour's first individual time trial, one of his favourite disciplines.

Froome's rivals are already lagging behind after two punishing days of climbing in the Pyrenees that underlined the British rider's status as clear favourite for the race.

But Contador, who is nearly two minutes behind overall, has not given up hope.

"I will try and do something," Contador said Monday.

"Everyone's legs are hurting, but if you don't think you can succeed then you never will. So we have to take a few risks."

The 28-year-old Froome has demonstrated panache and resilience over the weekend.

First, he crushed his rivals with a brutal acceleration up to the finish line on Saturday's eighth stage, and the next day he fended off attacks from rivals without the help of his teammates on an even tougher mountain stage.

"They were probably thinking about getting some time back on me," Froome said.

"I knew that those were attacks that I had to cover."

Super start

It is hard to spot any weakness in Froome, who finished runner-up to his Sky teammate and countryman Bradley Wiggins last year - when he had to curtail his own attacking instincts to serve Wiggins.

After nine nervous, crash-filled days and 1,513 kilometers (940 miles) in the saddle, Monday's rest day near the cooling waters of the Loire-Atlantique region could not come soon enough for the battered peloton after the stifling heat of southwestern France.

Contador, Schleck and the 36-year-old Evans now have to figure out a way to take the yellow jersey off Froome.

Contador is 1:51 behind in sixth; Schleck is four minutes back in 15th place; Evans is 4:36 adrift in 16th.

Given that Froome has looked the strongest in the mountains, and is among the favourites on Wednesday, they have a lot of thinking to do.

"It's been a super first week," Froome's Sky team manager Dave Brailsford said.

Unless Froome has an accident - and there have been several high-speed spills so far - it is hard to see where he can possibly lose any time. If anything, he will keep on gaining it.

That is providing his Sky teammates don't have another bad day like Sunday, where they were dropped in the early climbs.

"If we get another chance like this we will make the most of it," Contador said.

There is a glimmer of hope for Contador and others if they can work together against Sky when the race returns to the high mountains on Sunday. But that is easier said than done.

Contador takes heart from having won the Spanish Vuelta last year, where Froome finished about 10 minutes behind in fourth overall.

"I was in survival mode at the Vuelta," Froome said.

"If people want to make comparisons that's up to them, but I don't feel I was at my best."

Wednesday's 33-kilometer (20.5-mile) dash from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel is a chance for him to put more time into Contador. 

"It's a very flat time trial and that is a disadvantage for me," Contador said. 

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Source:
AP
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