Bike problem almost derails Froome on Stage 15

The day after losing the Tour de France lead to Fabio Aru, Chris Froome and his Team Sky showed on Friday they still have cards up their sleeves.

The 2017 Tour de France will return on Tuesday after a second rest day.

"All the team did nice work", Landa said. "They managed to do all they could to keep me in the front group".

Brailsford said: "I'm much happier if the Tour de France is not settled by time penalties". Not without irony, Aru was the major beneficiary of Froome's failure to cope with a brutal finish to stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes.

Froome, who had a six-second deficit at the start of the stage, is enjoying an 18-second advantage over Aru, who is paying for the weakness of his Astana team.

Aru, Romain Bardet, Rigoberto Uran, Martin Daniel, Simon Yates and Nairo Quintana are the possible attackers of this stage as any of them will try to extricate from the peloton.

Asked why his rivals did not capitalize on his misfortune, Froome said he felt they were more interested in getting rid of Movistar's Nairo Quintana, who cracked on the climb and went on to lose nearly four minutes.

"It's the biggest thing that could happen to me", he said.

"His strong point is he's very strong will-powered and Dan definitely believes he can win it, which he should do, because a couple of years ago (in 2014) if there weren't the two crashes (Froome and Alberto Contador), then (Vincenzo Nibali) wouldn't have won", added Roche, who believes circumstances could always give his nephew a chance.

Froome can draw confidence from the fact he's the one now wearing yellow, the fact that he and his team have defended their way through some challenging situations in recent days, and the fact he's the rider with the time-trial trump card.

Team Sky's Dave Brailsford said Chris Froome's mechanical problem on stage 15 could have ended his challenge, but the team reacted perfectly to the crisis.

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"I very rarely make a plan, it is just [about] opportunities", said Martin afterwards.

Froome has never faced such a close battle at this stage of the race. He had a lead of 1:47 after Stage 14 in 2016, of 3:10 in 2015 and 2:28 in 2013. He had no challengers at the finish as he rode across the line alone to complete the victory. "I think it's great that the fans are getting so into it and involved".

Dutchman Mollema attacked from the remnants on the breakaway in the closing stages of the 189.5-kilometre stage from Laissac-Severac L'Eglise to take his first career Tour win.

"There's a bit of bluffing going on with the four riders who are really close on GC and that's allowed me to come back into the frame", he said. But Sky promised they won't be caught off guard.

Froome, who survived a puncture, retained the yellow jersey.

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