Even though the overall general classification standings in the 2017 Tour De France have not changed amongst the top four riders, Chris Froome and his powerful Team Sky mates have sent a clear and unambiguous message to the rest of the peloton.
Froome finished the 16th stage; a mid-difficulty climbing stage that includes category three and four climbs in the early going, in 13th place, but no one ahead of him was any threat to the yellow jersey.
Team Sky’s dominance during a stage that encountered heavy crosswinds proved that if Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet or Rigoberto Uran are to make a move on Froome, they had better do it in the next two stages in the Alps.
That is unlikely, however, as Froome and Sky was invulnerable in the Pyrenees. If Froome can get to Saturday’s time trial with his lead intact, none of the three riders, who trail him collectively by less than half a minute, can expect to overtake him in Froome’s specialty.
Team Sky seems to have the most power, by far, with plenty or riders to mark Aru, Bardet and Uran if any of those three try to organize a break away.
With all their strength on conspicuous display, Sky set a frenetic pace that fractured the field in the 16th stage. Only 22 riders were able to keep pace all the way to the finish. Many more were dropped, even though only a few were in anything resembling contention.
The stage on Wednesday will find the riders confronted with a 166 km race where teams will jockey for position before encountering a 16 km stretch to the line that features a 10 percent gradient.
Aussie rider Michael Matthews got his second stage victory.
As for Froome and his chief lieutenant Mikel Landa, both report feeling strong and have accomplished their objective to getting to this point of the race with ample energy reserves.