Froome disappointed to see Contador abandon Tour

Alberto Contador is "a big loss" for the 2016 Tour de France according to Chris Froome, even though it removes one of his rivals for the yellow jersey.

Two-time champion Contador was forced to abandon the race during stage nine on Sunday as he struggled with illness.

It capped a disappointing first week for the Spaniard after he crashed on the opening day of the Grand Tour, suffering road rash injuries to the whole of his right side.

After numerous discussions with his team car, Contador eventually got off his bike with 100 kilometres to race, a decision that came as a shock to the current leader.

"I was quite surprised to hear that Alberto Contador was in his car," said Froome. 

"As he had attacked, he obviously wasn't feeling too bad but I guess he was still suffering from his injuries. It's a shame he's no longer in the race. It would have made the Tour even more exciting that it already is. 

"It's a big loss for the Tour de France but I have no doubt he'll be able to set other goals for himself this year. 

"The change for me is that we won't have to chase his attacks 100 kilometres before the finish. It's something less to worry about but it's a pity."

Froome maintained his 16-second lead at the top of the general classification after Sunday's gruelling stage that included five big climbs, the Briton keeping main rival Nairo Quintana at bay - the Colombian sitting 23 seconds behind.

Despite his advantage as the peloton enjoy their first rest day, Froome is in no doubt about the challenge he faces to win the Tour for a third time.

He added: "Several times before the Tour, I said this would be the biggest battle of my career and it's definitely the case. It's not easy to ride away from everyone this year. 

"The level is higher than in previous years."

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