FROOME DEFIES RIVALS AND RAIN TO RETAIN GC LEAD

Chris Froome, aboard his fi’zi:k Antares saddle, fended off a series of attacks from his Tour de France rivals – including former teammate Richie Porte (BMC Racing, fi’zi:k Aliante) – and apocalyptic weather to enter Monday’s rest day in General Classification top spot.

After nine stages, the 31-year-old Briton is 16 seconds ahead of his countryman Adam Yates (fi’zi:k Antares and Orica-BikeExchange) and a further 3 seconds clear of Ireland’s Dan Martin. The man many see as Froome’s greatest threat to making it three Tour wins in four years, Nairo Quintana (fi’zi:k Antares 00 and Movistar), is just 23 seconds behind in fourth – with some great mountain battles anticipated between the two fi’zi:k GC front men.

Froome had more than just the competition to contend with as torrential rain and hail battered the riders as they neared the finish of the 184.5km ninth stage from Vielha Val d’Aran to Andorre Arcalis. A brutal day saw the riders face one category-2 climb and three category-1 climbs before the final hors-category ascent (10.1km at 7.2%) to the Andorre Arcalis mountain-top finish.

‘That was a tough old day out there,’ a soaked Froome said after the stage. ‘It was really hard yesterday and then another tough day today. Going from pretty extreme heat – really hot, stuffy weather – to 10 degrees and a hailstorm at the finish – that made it difficult.’

Thankfully Froome had his ‘fantastic team’ around him, including Mikel Landa (fi’zi:k saddles), who put in a huge stint at the front of the peloton before passing the baton to Sergio Henao (fi’zi:k Antares R3) and Geraint Thomas (fi’zi:k R1B Uomo shoes and Arione saddle) to guide Froome up the final long climb of the day.

The riders now enjoy a well-deserved rest day before returning to action with Tuesday’s stage 10 – a 198km beast from Escaldes-Engordany to Revel.