July 16, 2016

VILLARS-LES-DOMBES, France (AP) As the Tour de France enters the Alps on Sunday, many would expect Chris Froome to be worried of pure climber Nairo Quintana.

The diminutive Colombian rider, who twice finished runner-up to Froome on the Tour, managed to gain time on the British champion in the closing stages last year, and will have plenty of opportunities in the mountains in the coming week.

But Froome landed what seemed to be a decisive blow at Quintana in the hilly time trial on Friday, moving 2 minutes, 59 seconds in front of the Colombian overall.

So, when asked about his main rival ahead of a tough final week of racing featuring two mountaintop finishes, Froome singled out another opponent.

''Now it's Bauke Mollema, who is in second place,'' Froome said after defending his yellow jersey on Saturday during the flat stage in the Rhone valley. ''I've got to keep a good eye on him, I have got to treat him as my biggest rival. He did a good time trial, and at the Ventoux he was able to sit in my wheel.''

Courtesy of an impressive performance in the time trial, Froome leads Mollema by 1:47 overall, with Briton Adam Yates in third place, 2:45 back.

''I'm very happy with my time trial, I have more room to breathe, but the Tour is not over, there is a long way to go.''

Seventh overall last year, Mollema is a strong allrounder with excellent climbing abilities, and rides for the Trek-Segafredo team.

He could be even closer to the yellow jersey if the race jury had not reinstated Froome at the top of the standings following the chaotic Mont Ventoux stage marred by a motorbike incident.

Richie Porte hit a TV motorbike, and Mollema and Froome also crashed. Mollema was unscathed and crossed the finish line first, but race officials ultimately awarded Porte and Froome the same time as the Dutchman, calling the incident ''exceptional circumstances.''

Froome defended the jury's decision on Saturday.

''That moto caused the accident for us, it would be a shame if the race was so heavily influenced by an incident like that,'' he said. ''I feel they made the right decision.''

Despite Quintana's lack of impact on the race so far, Froome remains fearful of the Colombian's reaction in the Alps.

''No doubt he is going to attack in the Alps. If Nairo's history has anything to go by, we know he's very strong in the last week, he is going to be trying,'' Froome said. ''My expectations for the last week are that it will be a very testing week, probably tougher than what we had up until now.''

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)