Tour leader Froome buoyed by stress-free stage


Tour de France leader Chris Froome welcomed the chance to "switch off a little" as stage 14 of the race passed by with no change to the top of the general classification standings.

Mark Cavendish prevailed in a bunch sprint at Villars-les-Dombes to claim his fourth stage win of this year's Tour and 30th overall.

Yet the drama of the closing kilometre offered a sharp contrast to what had gone before, with the peloton content to stick together into a strong headwind before reeling in a four-man breakaway group late on.

Assessing one of the Tour's less demanding stages, Froome said: "A quiet day was quite welcome after the two crazy days we've experienced and considering what's to come.

"It was nice to switch off a little and sit in the peloton, especially with the block headwind."

Sunday will see the field tackle a 160km ride from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz, highlighted by a gruelling climb of the Col du Grand Colombier.

"Tomorrow it will be a tricky stage," added Froome, who leads Trek-Segafredo's Bauke Mollema by one minute and 47 seconds.

"I know the route very well.This stage might have been underestimated because it's not an uphill finish but it has 4,000 metres of difference in altitude and a critical final descent.

"It's a key stage in the middle of the Tour. It's been a tough Tour so far. We've tested every aspect of bike riding, on the flat, in the mountains, against the clock.

"I'm happy with the advantage I have. It gives me a bit of breathing space, but there's still work to be done. I have no doubt that Nairo Quintana will attack me in the Alps. That's what we've learnt from him those past two or three years.

"He's usually stronger in the third week but Alejandro Valverde seems to be in a great shape as well. Other teams like BMC with Tejay [van Garderen] and Richie [Porte] will also be looking to move up to the podium.

"I have to keep a close eye on Bauke Mollema now. He's second so I have to consider him as my biggest rival"