Chris Froome can be grateful he will have the road to himself during today’s time trial at the 100th Tour de France.
Froome’s dreams of victory flashed before his eyes yesterday when Alberto Contador crashed in front of him and forced him off the road to Gap.
Froome remained upright but - on a dangerous descent with a history of crashes in the Tour - it was a stark reminder of the risks still ahead as he attempts to protect his overall lead all the way to Paris.
“One second you can be going for the finish and about to win a race, and the next moment you’re lying in a ditch somewhere with broken bones,” Froome said.
“Nothing is guaranteed in cycling.”
Froome accused Contador - his main rival here who lies in third place, four minutes and 25 seconds off the pace - of riding dangerously but fears his competitors will continue to take risks with time running out to claw their time back.
“I think teams are starting to get desperate now,” he said. “They are going to take uncalculated risks.”
Some six hours after the stage had finished, the incident was clearly still bothering Froome as he sent a Tweet to Contador late last night.
“Almost went over your head @albertocontador..” he wrote. “Little more care next time?”
Contador, a two-time Tour winner with no interest in being a runner-up, defended his actions.
“For me there is no motivation to be calm and sit on their wheel in the bunch,” he said.
“Whenever I see there is a chance, I’ll try, either at the beginning or the end of a race, and we’ll see what the result is in Paris.”
At least Froome will be spared such worries today on the second individual time trial, a 32-kilometre run from Embrun to Chorges.
This will be no ordinary time trial, however, with two category two climbs on a narrow, twisty course and the spectre of tomorrow’s double assault on Alpe d’Huez looming large on rider’s minds.
“It’s going to be a really tough time trial tomorrow and everyone will be going as hard as they can,” said Froome, whose climbing ability makes him the favourite today after his second place finish in last week’s flat time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel.
“You have to keep in mind that the day after we’re going up Alpe d’Huez twice though, so it’s going to be a difficult. I think people are going to have to pace themselves over the next few days, keeping in mind that this really is the business end of the race now.”