Froome still has over 2 minutes on his closest GC rival, but the day after his dominant stage 8 win in the Pyrenees, Sky saw Richie Porte, second on GC, crack badly as he lost 17 minutes, and key mountain helper Vasil Kiryienka missed the time cut.
Froom bounced back to take minutes on his key rivals in the ITT, only to lose the powerful Edvald Boassan Hagen to a crash in stage 12.
Nobody expected much action in Friday's stage 13, marked as an easy day for the GC guys with a bunch sprint finish, but crosswinds created tactical opportunities for Mark Cavendish's OMQS team of Belgian hardmen as they split the peloton. That move left behind 3-stage winner Marcel Kittel, who had beat Cav straight up in Thursday's sprint.
Tweet from Cavendish on his team in today's stage:
Today I saw 9 of the biggest hearts I've ever seen & 18 even bigger balls. 1 of the most beautiful wins I've been part of. Proud of
Later, a superbly timed move by Saxo-Tinkoff split the leading field even further and left behind Froome, along with sprinter Andre Greipel. Cavendish immediately jumped across to the move. The result was a sprint win by Cav from the small group of 14 riders and a minute taken from Froome by Alberto Contador, as Sky just did not have the horsepower to close the gap in the crosswinds. In another bad sign for Sky, Richie Porte faded early and lost 30 minutes.
GC second place Moviestar's Valverde had an ill-timed flat and lost almost 10 minutes, taking him out of contention for the GC.
With Mont Ventoux looming on Sunday, expect Froome and Team Sky to be forced to fend off furious attacks from Saxo-Tinkoff and Belkin, whose riders fill out the current top 5 on GC.
With Sky down to 6 riders, Froome could be isolated early and any crack in his armor could see him lose big time. He still has a big lead and yet another time trial, but things are not as settled as they appeared a few short days ago.
Hell, yeah! This Tour needed some excitement and it is here.
VeloGames TdF JBarCycling MiniLeague
I took a contrary position when selecting my fantasy TdF team, passing up favoties like Chris Froome and Peter Sagan. As a result, I have been languishing in DFL among the 10 JBC MiniLeague teams. Cavendish has missed out on some wins that I expected from him, Thomas Voekler, always good for a breakaway, has been invisible, and my other picks seem to have needed some PEDs.
But, I scored points with Dan Martin's stage win and Contador, my GC pick, is showing signs of life, so I can now stand proudly and say loudly, "I'M NOT DEAD F'N' LAST!!"
That honor now belongs to my good friend Chris Irons. (Note to Chris: Andy Schleck is soft and will never time trial worth a damn.).
Add a couple of more sprint wins by Cav and a move by Contador, and I may move up to "also ran" status.
Leading the pack is Team Grid, owner unknown, a team which, remarkably contains Schleck, along with Cavendish, Sagan, and Porte.