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TOUR DE FRANCE

Froome slams Alberto Contador’s Tour tactics

Tour de France leader Chris Froome has slammed Spanish rival Alberto Contador after claiming the Spaniard used "dangerous" tactics in a bid to loosen his grip on the yellow jersey.

Froome slams Alberto Contador's Tour tactics
Chris Froome (C) rides behind Alberto Contador (R) during the 168 km sixteenth stage on July 16, 2013. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Froome came over the finish of the 168 km 16th stage over 11 minutes behind winner Rui Costa of Movistar to maintain his 4min 14sec lead over Dutchman Bauke Mollema and his 4:25 cushion on former two-time winner Contador.

However the Team Sky leader skirted with disaster, narrowly missing colliding with Contador when the Saxo team leader lost control after a tight right-hand bend on a notoriously dangerous descent.

Froome, who left the road and had to unclip from one of his pedals, eventually came over the finish admitting he was "happy to get to the finish without too much damage".

But the Kenyan-born Briton hit out at what he labelled "desperate" tactics by Contador's team.

"I personally feel that some teams are starting to get desperate now and are taking uncalculated risks," said Froome, who has held the race lead since winning stage eight at Ax-Trois-Domains in the Pyrenees.

"It seemed that (Roman) Kreuziger and Contador were taking it in turns to come from the back with a bit of acceleration and try to force a small gap on the descent, hoping that we'd lay off and give them a bit more space.

"On this particular corner, Contador just came through fairly quickly and he struggled to hold on to his bike, to keep control of it, and he crashed just in front of me.

"I went off to the left, slightly off the road. But there was a lip there so I had to unclip to get back on to the road."

"If you ask me, it was dangerous for Alberto to do that. There was no need for it."

Contador has so far been dominated by Froome in the high mountain stages of the race, forcing the Spaniard to take every possible opporunity to close his deficit before the race finishes on Sunday.

The Spaniard, who also escaped unscathed from the incident, was unapologetic.

"That's cycling," said the Spaniard.

And his team sporting director Fabrizio Guidi warned: "Going for the overall (victory) is not just something we say. We showed today that we keep on putting the pressure on Froome and we're willing to take chances.

"I'm really proud of the way we handle this situation. We're still fighting as a team and we remain focused on the job."

The twisting descent into Gap from the summit of the Col de Manse is notoriously dangerous.

In 2003 Joseba Beloki attacked American rival Lance Armstrong on the descent of the Rochette, which is higher up on the same descent, braked hard on melting tarmac and broke his hip. Armstrong, who was in hot pursuit, raced through a field to avoid hitting the Spaniard and carried on the race.

Froome admitted: "I knew it was the descent where Beloki crashed so I was trying to lay off a little bit. I don't like taking risks on descents like that."

With an overnight lead of over four minutes, Froome could, on paper, have taken a more conservative approach.

Asked why he followed Contador and put himself in a potentially dangerous position, Froome replied ironically: "Yes, I should probably have let him go up the road and take the yellow jersey."

Froome retained his lead of 4:14 over Mollema and still leads Contador by 4:25.

But now, he is taking nothing for granted until he reaches Paris on Sunday.

"Like we've seen today, this race is far from over and one incident in the wrong moment and you're Tour can be over. You could be going to the finish and about to win the race and the next you're lying in a ditch with broken bones.

"In my mind, the tour is not over until we cross the line at the Champs Elysees."

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CYCLING

Historic Vuelta triumph cements Froome’s legacy

Chris Froome believes he has secured his status as one of cycling's all-time greats as he stands on the brink of a historic Tour de France-Vuelta a Espana double.

Historic Vuelta triumph cements Froome's legacy
British cyclist Christopher Froome smiles as he sports the overall leader's red jersey on the podium of the 20th stage of the 72nd edition of "La Vuelta" Tour of Spain cycling race on Saturday. PHOTO:
Froome extended his lead over Vincenzo Nibali to 2min 15sec in Saturday's penultimate stage of the Vuelta with only a traditional parade through Madrid to come on Sunday.
 
The Briton will become only the third rider to ever win the Tour and Vuelta in the same year and the first since the Vuelta was moved to after the Tour in the cycling calendar back in 1995.
 
“I could only have dreamed to be in this position, to be making history,” said Froome. “To be the first British rider to win the Vuelta. The first rider to win the Tour and go onto win the Vuelta. This is sealing my place in the history of the sport.”
 
Froome's Tour de France success last month was the fourth of his storied career. However, he had always fallen just short previously at the Vuelta as a runner-up in 2011, 2014 and 2016.
 
“Each victory is so different. Each victory tells its own story. Today was such an emotional moment,” added Froome, who broke down in tears at the finish line.
 
“Even more so coming after the Tour de France and having won the Tour, this was an even bigger challenge. It's a huge challenge, a huge undertaking, and to reach the summit knowing I have the victory pretty much secured with just the procession into Madrid tomorrow is just such an overwhelming feeling.”
 
Filled with brutal mountain climbs like the finale to Alto de l'Angliru on Saturday in conditions varying across three weeks of racing from searing heat in the south to wind and rain in recent days in the north, Froome believes the Vuelta provides an even stiffer test than La Grande Boucle.
 
“The Vuelta represents a different kind of bike racing. It's more of a physical challenge than the Tour given the number of
mountaintop finishes, the aggression, the conditions we've had.
 
“We've had days of over 40 degrees, days like today of 10 degrees and raining, days of strong winds. It's really brutal.”
 
Having come so close to standing atop the podium in Madrid with the leader's red jersey in recent years, Froome altered his entire preparation for the season to target a historic double.
 
His Tour win was a less spectacular one as he failed to win a stage in seeing off Rigoberto Uran by just 54 seconds for the yellow jersey.
 
However, backed by incredible support from his Sky teammates, Froome has looked in supreme form in recent weeks, taking both stage nine and individual time trial victory on stage 16.
 
“The Vuelta is a race I genuinely enjoy doing and I came close last year,” he added. “I believe last year tactically I got caught out in the Vuelta. I won the Tour and finished second in the Vuelta. That gave me a lot of motivation and showed me it was possible to do the double.
 
“This year I structured my season very differently. I did very few races in the first part of the season and arrived at the Tour a little on the fresh side, not necessarily enough racing in my legs, but that has helped me to be really strong throughout the three weeks here at the Vuelta.”
 
By AFP's Kieran Canning