Team Sky leaders Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome battled their way to strong finishes during an action-packed stage nine at the Tour de France.
Thomas was able to retain second place overall, remaining the best placed of the general classification contenders, now 43 seconds behind the yellow jersey of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing). Froome battled hard, even overcoming a crash on sector eight which saw him flip over the top of teammate Gianni Moscon. The four-time Tour winner was paced back to the head of the race and even put in a late acceleration on his way to eighth place overall, 1:42 back on yellow.
“It was tough because there were times where we were in front and we did push on a little bit”, said Froome. “But we also knew there was a long way to go. Those splits happened very early after three or four sections. So it was very early to really push and put everything on the line with so many cobbled sections to come. The guys rode a fantastic race keeping myself and Geraint up front so chapeau to them.
“We’ve had cobbles sections in the Tour so this isn’t a first for us. Thankfully we’ve got a recovery day tomorrow, so we’ll definitely soak that up and make the best of that. I’m relieved to get through today and looking forward to getting into the mountains now where the real race GC will start.”
“I think most of the GC guys were still there at the end. Obviously Richie was the most significant GC guy (to lose out). It’s never nice to see a mate go down like that. So my thoughts go out to him today.”
“It was strange because there are GC guys and guys going for the stage”, said Thomas. “It would stop and come back together then split again. It was frustrating because you want to keep going, but you don’t necessarily want to be the one riding with 50km to go.
“It was just hard all day from kilometre zero. You’ve got to be in the right position but you also need the luck because it’s easy to puncture or get caught up in something.
“I think all the GC guys were up there. It was just sad to see Richie crash out. Obviously he’s a good mate of mine even though he’s a rival. It’s not nice to hear that on the radio.”