Froome Survives French Coup Attempt to Retain Tour Lead

The perfect day- Matthews delight at hilltop win

It had been clear since midway through the day - a 189.5km stage through the lovely Massif Centra range to Le Puy en Velay - that stage honours would go to the breakaway, with Sky happy to let a 28-man group pull further and further away.

He battled back on, but nearly immediately had a mechanical issue, depriving him of the services of Michal Kwiatkowski, who gave his rear wheel to his team leader. "I had to give it my maximum to get back to the front of the race".

With Mikel Landa dropping back from the Bardet group to help him in the final metres before he regained contact, Froome caught up with Bardet and Aru and company a couple of kilometres from the top of the Peyra Taillade and immediately had to respond to an attack from the Frenchman, who was racing on his home roads in front of his home crowd.

Aru is now 18 seconds behind Froome with Romain Bardet at 23sec and Rigoberto Uran at 29sec in one of the tightest yellow jersey battles in years.

Stage victor Mollema had been a member of a strong escape group comprising 28 riders, including Katusha's Tony Martin who launched a trademark attack from 65 kilometres out. "We had a hard moment but we worked like a team to save the day".

The tall and lanky Brit had a rear wheel problem when they were climbing through the Massif Central mountains towards Le Puy-en-Velay in stage 15. The course has a climb to start and finish the stage that will test everyone right off the bat. "We know it's a very, very, very hard task faced with such a tough opponent as Froome, but I think we have the keys to turn some things around". I'm grateful [teammate Michal] Kwiatkowski stopped, and all my teammates paced me, even Mikel Landa [now sixth overall] dropped back and paced me.




"I'd like to think when we were controlling the race it was a bit calmer".

"But at the end of the day, I'm just going to do my best and if my best is better than the other guys - I'll win".

Froome can draw confidence from the fact he's the one now wearing yellow, the fact that he and his team have defended their way through some challenging situations in recent days, and the fact he's the rider with the time-trial trump card.

He will ride on his favourite terrain from Wednesday when the race enters the Alps. "They are very much together as a pair riding for the overall (team), not riding against each other in any way".

I prefer to be ahead on GC at this point than having to make up time. "I'm so happy to win a stage at the Tour de France". That wasn't necessarily the case last Sunday - the stage that claimed Australia's big hope Richie Porte in a horror crash - when Froome signalled that he had a mechanical issue six km from the top of Mont du Chat. I'm doing my best, it's really tough, it's the biggest race in the world. I'm going to pass out tonight.

That was the first goal. "That comes naturally to some people but it wasn't something I looked forward to, especially with this stupid water bottle penalty where everyone is looking for a story and trying to put words in your mouth about the rules being rigged for the French".

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