Chris Froome’s unmatchable speed uphill

Last year, Team Sky maintained an uncomfortable pace up mountain climbs until there was pretty much no-one left. On stage eight this year, they maintained an uncomfortable pace until there was pretty much no-one left. At which point Chris Froome accelerated.

Overall, the stage was a brutal reminder that pretty much everyone in a Grand Tour loses eventually. I’d list the big names who couldn’t stick the pace, but it was basically everyone bar Froome.

The art of destruction

The first proper mountain stage was always likely to see some damage, but Froome arrived with sledgehammer, wrecking ball and explosives. He put these things to good use and then ground the rubble into powder. After that, he dropped the powder into an acid bath before urinating on the resultant sludge.

Maybe his recurrent bouts of bilharzia have trained his body to make the most of red blood cells when they’re available; normal blood becoming super-powered to his oxygen-starved muscles. Or maybe he just trains like a madman. Watch him on the bike and you suspect it’s the latter.

Time gaps

I’ll keep this list to riders who appeared in my list of yellow jersey contenders. Read it and weep (for them).

  • Alejandro Valverde – 1m08s
  • Alberto Contador – 1m45s
  • Nairo Quintana – 1m45s
  • Joaquim Rodriguez – 2m06s
  • Andy Schleck – 3m34s
  • Cadel Evans – 4m13s
  • Ryder Hesjedal – 8m15s
  • Tejay Van Garderen – 12m15s

Froome’s team-mate, Richie Porte, finished second, 51 seconds down and looked creepily chilled-out for much of the climb. I think it’s just that he doesn’t have a particularly expressive face though.

Of the above riders, Quintana deserves respect, because he attacked on the penultimate climb and gained a minute on everyone, which will have taken a lot of effort. To still finish among the leaders having been caught warrants a ‘chapeau!’ and he may have a bit more in the bank than the others.

Contador recorded the same time as Quintana, but had to be paced in by team-mate Roman Kreuziger and looked really messy, pedalling pretty much like me for the last couple of kilometres.

Stage nine

A kind of persistently mountainous stage, but with a long descent to finish. Expect a breakaway (quite possibly including Tommy Voeckler).

Before today, you’d have predicted attacks from some general classification rider or other, but you wonder whether everyone will be too pissed off to bother now. Here’s the profile.