By Julien Pretot
PAU, France (Reuters) – It will take multiple attacks from multiple riders to unsettle race leader and defending champion Chris Froome in Thursday’s 12th stage of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees, according to three-time champion Greg LeMond.
The 214.5-km trek from Pau to Peyragudes will offer opportunities for the aggressive riders, but a solo effort will be doomed as Briton Froome’s Team Sky outfit are experts in containing the opposition.
“What we will see is I guess a train from Sky (setting a high pace in the climbs),” LeMond, who is on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said on Wednesday in his daily chat with Reuters.
“There will not be a lot of attacks early on. I’m not expecting anything crazy, but sometimes it’s when you don’t expect things that they happen.”
The hardest climbs come in the last 50-km of the stage, with the Port de Bales (11.7km at an average gradient of 7.7 percent), a descent to the foot of the Col de Peyresourde (9.7km at 7.8 pct), a very short downhill and the final ascent to Peyragudes (2.4km at 8.4 pct) with gradients reaching 20 percent.
Froome said he would ride conservatively to defend his yellow jersey, and LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, is wondering whether his rivals will go all-in.
So far, only Italian Fabio Aru, second in the general classification 18 seconds down, and France’s Romain Bardet, who is in third 51 seconds off the pace, have attacked the Briton.
“Aru, Bardet, who knows if they are going to really race?” said LeMond, who believes Froome’s rivals have no real wish to go for the throat.
“I question the desire (of Froome’s rivals) to go for it instead of just keeping their place,” he said.
“I’d love to see more aggressive riding from (Bardet’s) AG2R-La Mondiale. Isolating Froome will be key. I would do what it takes to eliminate Sky riders.”
Although alliances between teams rarely materialize, LeMond believes that Froome’s rivals should be relentless.
“You need multiple people to attack multiple times,” he said. “But if anything, Froome could counter attack.”
With a final time trial in Marseille favoring Froome, the Briton could on Thursday virtually put the hammer down on the Tour.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)