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Tour de France: Sky ready to alter strategy

Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford said on Monday they will change their strategy for the rest of the Tour de France in order to maintain their grip on the race and fend off challenges from rival teams, who pushed yellow jersey holder Chris Froome to the limit in Sunday's stage 9.

Tour de France: Sky ready to alter strategy
Photo: AFP

Team Sky said they are ready to adapt their strategy for the remainder of the Tour de France after the "war" of stage nine shook up race leader Chris Froome.

After the euphoria of Froome's stunning victory atop Ax-Trois-Domaines gave the Kenyan-born Briton the race lead on Saturday, Sky were put to the test on Sunday's second day in the Pyrenees as teams colluded to loosen their grip.

By the end of the stage Froome was still in command but aggressive racing by Sky's rivals saw Australian teammate Richie Porte, sitting second overall at 51secs overnight, tumble to the nether regions of the overall standings.

Sky's spectacular collapse left Froome on his own and exposed to attacks by rivals like Alberto Contador (Saxo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Froome ultimately weathered the storm, and team principal Dave Brailsford gave him a pat on the back.

"To use a boxing analogy, he's taken the biggest right hook on the chin and he didn't flinch," said Brailsford.

Faced with suggestions that Sky had hit too hard, too soon and have upset rivals who will pounce later in the race, Brailsford was defiant.

"We've learned some lessons and there are some valuable lessons to be learned that we will take into the rest of the race," he said.

Brailsford was hesitant to elaborate but added: "We will adapt our strategy for the rest of the race. I'm not going to go into the details of what we're going to change."

While Froome did not lose any time on stage nine, the loss of Porte as a potential podium finisher is a major handicap for Sky in terms of tactics.

Attacks by either rider in the coming mountain stages would likely prompt rivals to spend energy counter-attacking, allowing Sky to save energy and attack when they decide the time is right.

Froome admitted: "From my side it's a huge shame that we don't have that card to play now, and of course it's a shame for Richie."

Porte, meanwhile, put his collapse down to an 'off-day', a common occurrence for riders on the demanding three-week Grand Tours.

"Anybody here who's been a bicycle racer knows on the Grand Tours you have good and bad days," said the Australian, the reigning Paris-Nice champion.

But he admitted that Sky's success on Saturday had elicited an "angry" response from their rivals.

"There was an angry peloton that threw everything they had at us… Yesterday was a special day, it makes for great viewing at home. But it was an absolute war."

After Sunday's stage Froome and Porte admitted they had both possibly suffered their "worst" day on the bike.

And with 12 stages remaining, including a time trial on Wednesday over 33 km and several brutal days in the Alps in the final week, most will expect Sky to come under attack again.

Porte, for one, is hoping Froome can help restore order in the peloton by taking more time off his rivals in Wednesday's time trial.

"My hope is that it (race) will become a little bit more controlled, and it is going to get easier after the time trial," added the Tasmanian.

Brailsford, meanwhile, says his team will simply have to adapt their strategy as the race moves on towards the Alps. Stage 15 to Mont Ventoux could be the next battleground.

"I don't have a crystal ball," added Brailsford.

"This is sport… we're here, we've got a team of committed riders, we've got some strong opposition, we're leading the race, we've got some time trials to come, some different mountain stages and we'll try to adapt our strategy for those."

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TOUR DE FRANCE 2013

Froome crowned Tour de France winner in Paris

Chris Froome was crowned winner of the 2013 Tour de France on Sunday as the 100th edition of the race drew to a close on the famous Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Froome crowned Tour de France winner in Paris
Chris Froome clad in the yellow jersey that he has made his own. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Britain's Chris Froome was crowned champion of the 100th edition of the Tour de France as Germany's Marcel Kittel powered his way to his fourth win on the 21st and final stage on Sunday.

Team Sky's Froome, the winner of three stages in this edition, claimed his aiden yellow jersey with a winning margin of 4min 20sec on second-placed Colombian Nairo Quintana of Movistar.

"I think it's going to take a while to sink in," said a triumphant Froome, who succeeded teammate and compatriot Bradley Wiggins, absent this year, as
the yellow jersey champion.

"It's really has been a special edition of the Tour de France this year. Every day I woke up knowing I faced a fresh challenge… and I have to thank all my teammates for helping me achieve this dream."

Race debutant Quintana, who moved up to second place thanks to his maiden stage win at the summit finish of Annecy-Semnoz on Saturday, secured the race's white jersey for the best young rider and the best climber's polka dot jersey.

He was joined on the podium by Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), third at 5:04 and one place ahead of former two-time winner Alberto Contador of Spain, who slipped to fourth on Saturday's penultimate stage.

Slovakian Peter Sagan of Cannondale won the points competition's green jersey for the second successive year with a tally of 409 points and a 97-point lead on former winner Mark Cavendish of Britain.

Argos sprinter Kittel ended Cavendish's hopes of a fifth consecutive win on the Champs Elysees when he outsprinted the Omega-Pharma sprinter and German Andre Greipel of Lotto in a thrilling dash for the line.

Greipel, the winner of one stage, finished second with Cavendish, a close third.

It left Kittel, with four stage wins, as the top sprinter of this year's race and allowed the German to close the race as he opened it having won the opening stage from Porto Vecchio to Bastia.

"Four! I can't believe it," said Kittel. "It was a dream of mine to win on the Champs Elysees and now I've done it. I'm so proud."

Froome began the final stage with a lead of 5:03 on Quintana — the largest margin since disgraced American Lance Armstrong claimed his sixth win in 2004 with a lead of six minutes on German Andreas Kloden.

However, the Briton, who was unchallenged on a final stage which is traditionally contested by the sprinters, lost time to the Colombian in the final, frantic laps of a packed-out circuit in the French capital.

Froome thus becomes the second successive Briton to win the race after teammate and compatriot Bradley Wiggins, who made history as Britain's first winner in 2012, when Froome finished runner-up.

The 28-year-old Froome, born in Nairobi, won three stages on this year's race — two on mountaintop finishes and one time trial — to take his tally to
four.

His performances on this year's race, the first since the downfall of Armstrong, raised eyebrows among sceptics.

Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford, however, maintained that Froome and his team are clean and that in the Kenyan-born Briton, the sport is in "safe hands".

"Chris really deserved this win, he worked so hard for it," said Brailsford, who helped orchestrate British track cycling's rise to world and Olympic domination in the past decade before turning his sights on road racing.    

"If you look at the future of cycling, I think in a rider like Chris the sports is in safe hands. There are no doubts about our team, no doubts whatsoever."

   

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