AN intriguing dilemma faces Team Sky after Chris Froome moved into second place in the Tour de France behind Bradley Wiggins and appeared so strong in the finale of stage 11 that he had to wait for his leader.
On a 148-kilometre route from Albertville to La Toussuire, which Wiggins had described as the toughest day of the route to Paris on July 22, the 32-year-old Londoner increased his advantage over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to three minutes 19 seconds.
The defending champion was overtaken in second place by Froome, who now sits 2mins 5secs behind, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) third, 2:23 adrift.
The main talking point came around 3km from the finish when, after the Team Sky duo had bridged the gap to a rival group, Froome accelerated again.
The 27-year-old, who finished second in last year’s Vuelta a Espana, one place ahead of Wiggins, then hesitated and reached for his race radio to ask where the Team Sky leader was.
It prompted immediate questions: was the attack planned? Who called Froome back? Was Wiggins unable to go with him? Or did he pull rank, believing the manoeuvre was unnecessary?
Wiggins suggested it was the latter.
“At that moment I was just really concentrating on my effort and keeping it constant,” Wiggins said.
“I’d been riding for 1.5km, 2km before that. I just wanted to clear the lactate and didn’t want to make any more of an acceleration.
“There was a lot of noise and a lot of things going on on the radio and a bit of confusion at that point as to what we were doing.
“I think he (Froome) showed today he had the legs, certainly. It was another great day for the team.”
The prospect of Froome attacking in the closing stages to try to claim second place from Evans had been discussed by Team Sky ahead of the start.
But sports director Sean Yates confirmed afterwards he halted Froome’s move and that the planned acceleration was for the closing 500metres.
Wiggins added: “Chris wasn’t 100% confident in the last time-trial (on July 21) that he’d have the better of Cadel.
“He wanted to try to get a bit of time on him (Evans) today. It was certainly the plan this morning, as long as I stayed with Vincenzo and those guys and Chris didn’t drag those guys away.”