Tour de France: Stage 18 reactions

Chris Froome (Sky), stage winner and overall leader

“I really didn’t expect to beat Tom today,” he said. “Pacing was key. I really started off quite steady and controlled that first part, and then just gave it everything I had over the top and the last part. I’m really, really happy with that.

“There are two more big days to come now. Hopefully I didn’t leave too much out on the road today. At this point, two days out from Paris, we’re just giving it everything we’ve got now. It’s just this last couple of days to get the job done.

“Tomorrow is a very tricky stage with a lot of tricky descents. There’s talk about thunderstorms during the race. It’s definitely going to have to be a stage where we stay right on our game. Of course it’s fantastic that I opened out my lead today, but we can’t relax and switch off now. We’ve got to see this through right to the end.”</p>

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin)

“I’m satisfied but I don’t think it’ll be enough to win the stage. I think Froome in his best form can beat my time. I felt good on the steep bit at the beginning but I felt I was losing a bit of strength on the longer stretches of 3-4%. It’s easy to lose time on a course like this. I did a good time trial but I don’t think it’s good enough to win.”

“I hope to lose some weight in the future so I can really compete in the Grand Tours. So far my climbing abilities are good, but not good enough yet to really compete for the podium. But it’s getting close, but to compete for the podium in the Tour de France I need to make another step. I’m getting close, you can see today it’s a climbing TT and I’m second, but there’s a difference between going full gas every day for three weeks and me taking back some time yesterday. I think I need to make another step, but it’s looking very promising.”

Fabio Aru (Astana)

“I’m happy with my result today. For me this was an important test because it came deep into the third week. Now I’ve got to recover as much as possible and perhaps even spend some time with my parents who are here to cheer me on. Then we’ll be fully focused on the final two stages.

“I hope to continue doing well in the final stages. It’s good to hear that people have noticed I’m in the race too, even if I prefer to let my legs do the talking.

“We saw yesterday how strong the team was yesterday, especially Nibali, who is helping me a lot despite being sometimes being criticised. I can only thank him and hope we can be as strong all the way to Paris.”

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)

“It was a good day for me, especially in the end I could do a good pace,” said Mollema, satisfied with his effort. “The second part went best for me. It was a very, very hard time trial and I gave it my all. I feel good, and I am ready for the next days. The legs were fine today, not fantastic, but better than yesterday.

“I lost some valuable time on some rivals. My feeling in the first TT was different, and I knew this one would be harder. The pure climbers like Porte are better suited for this one.”

“I really thought well about the equipment choices for today. I think it was the best set-up for me. I have been training on this bike already; it’s a super light bike – close to 6.8 kilos for a mountain TT like this and still having a good position for climbing – so I think I made the right choice.”

“I guess Froome is out of sight now,” exclaimed Mollema. “But with five guys within 1 minute and 8 seconds, it will be fierce between us. It all became more exciting, unfortunately for me, though,” he smiled, then said: “But it’s definitely better to be in my spot than 5th; I’m healthy and feel good.”

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

“I wasn’t expecting to be feeling this way. It’s not fatigued how I feel, but my body doesn’t respond properly either. It might be some sort of allergy around which has hit me furing the last few days – my legs don’t simply get as much oxygen as I need. I hope that rain falls during the next days, so I can feel better and hope for the podium. Despite not finding that great form, at the moment it doesn’t look like a bad place to be in, fourth and ready to fight for the TDF podium. Let’s see how by body responds towards Saturday – if this allergy limiting myself goes out, I might respond as I normally do. Thanks to all Colombians for their support, messages and tweets: they’ve always been there in all times, good and bad.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

“I felt myself pretty well, even though at the end of the day, it wasn’t a fight for me since I’m not going for the overall classification – we’re into another fight, to help Nairo with his podium ambitions and also pursue the team GC. I kept saving some energy until the end: obviously strong, fast, but not till the point of ending up struggling if I overcooked myself. Regarding the race itself, I repeat we’ve tried to attack, yet Froome’s squad is really strong. There are still two demanding stages left and we’ll fight to finish as best as possible. Winning the Tour has become all but impossible, but a podium could be in the cards. I’m feeling well, looking forward to the Olympics. A stage win here? I don’t think it will be possible – breakaways require to have lost some time, which I haven’t done.”

Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step)

“I had the best equipment possible and I’m grateful for that, this was very important today. I did my best, although it wasn’t easy. I suffered for around two kilometers after the steepest part of the route and lost some time there. We are 18 days into the Tour de France, we have 3 000 kilometers in the legs, some very fast flat kilometers with crazy winds and a lot of altitude gain, so it’s normal to feel tired”.

“This morning I felt good, but things changed during the race. Hopefully, tomorrow morning I will wake up with the same sensations. I never felt so good this late into a Tour de France, I also managed to avoid being sick and I’m happy for that. Two crucial mountain stages are now coming and I hope things will go in the way I want.”

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

“I’m very happy. Together with my team directors we decided just before the Dauphiné when we did the recon of these stages, to do a bike change after the flat part. That part was only 4 K but that’s enough to put me far behind against the big TT specialists, who have more power in the legs. It was a good choice. During the change, which took some 15-20 seconds, I could recover a bit and then go on with the real climbing TT. It went well”.