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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Tour de France: Chris Froome and rivals dust down after hectic week

Chris Froome and his Tour de France rivals will have a welcome day off on Monday to lick their wounds and prepare for the next two gruelling weeks.

Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, stage winner Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, France's Romain Bardet and Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang, climb towards Mont du Chat pass during the ninth stage of the Tour de France.
Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, stage winner Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, France's Romain Bardet and Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang, climb towards Mont du Chat pass during the ninth stage of the Tour de France.

And breathe! Chris Froome and his Tour de France rivals will have a welcome day off on Monday to lick their wounds and prepare for the next two gruelling weeks.

Sunday was a brutal, bruising and costly day for the Tour as a whole as five riders crashed out, including Australian contender Richie Porte and Froome's teammate Geraint Thomas, and seven more failed to make the cut-off time.

In one day, the Tour lost 12 riders having seen just five leave the race over the previous eight days.

And as well as the debris left strewn over the roads of the Jura mountain range - along with a fair amount of riders' skin - were the hopes of several overall contenders.

Not only did BMC's Porte crash out but another spill resulted in fringe hope Rafal Majka of Poland losing 36 minutes as he struggled on injured to the finish.

Other overall contenders who came off their bikes didn't lose as much time but did see their chances affected.

Ireland's Dan Martin came down twice on the final descent off the Mont du Chat, the first time taken out spectacularly by an out-of-control Porte skidding across the road.

Only Martin's helmet saved him from a fate perhaps much worse than exiting a race.

He limited his losses to just 1 minute, 15 seconds but two-time former winner Alberto Contador lost more than four minutes after also crashing twice, once on a low speed ascent.

And Colombian Nairo Quintana, one of the pre-race favourites, simply struggled as he felt the affects of riding May's Giro d'Italia, like Martin losing 1:15.

It left Froome sitting pretty in yellow having eked out his lead a touch to 18 seconds over Italian Fabo Aru, with Frenchman Romain Bardet, looking increasingly assured, strong and daring, third at 51 secs.

Those two 27-year-old riders could be all that remains now between Froome, 32, and a fourth Tour title.

Rest days are always welcome but can be tricky as not every rider reacts well to having a day off from intense racing.

It's a tricky balancing act between rest, recuperation and keeping the legs ticking over.

Some find it disrupts their rhythm and can affect their performance the following day, although Tuesday is set for a fairly straight-forward breakaway chase and sprint finish.

Yet the sprint corps is rapidly thinning - having already lost Mark Cavendish to injury and Peter Sagan to disqualification, Frenchman Arnaud Demare finished outside the cut-off time on Sunday and will take no further part.

Marcel Kittel has already won three stages and will be favourite to claim two more in the next two days, his German compatriot Andre Greipel, and Norwegians Alexander Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen perhaps the only two competitors who have shown any hope in previous sprints of beating him.