Cycling: Froome in yellow but kept in check by Quintana
By Julien Pretot
ANDORRA LA VELLA (Reuters) - Once again, Chris Froome reached the first rest day of the Tour de France in yellow, but this year, his advantage is much thinner and his main rival Nairo Quintana is keeping his cards close to his chest.
The Briton, who hammered the opposition in the first summit finish of the Tour in 2013 and 2015, leads fourth-placed Quintana, the runner-up in those two years, by 23 seconds.
In 2013 and 2015, the Team Sky rider was leading Quintana by about 2 minutes going into the first rest day.
Froome, who took the overall lead with a stunning attack in the final descent of the eighth stage, was however unable to drop Movistar's Quintana in the final ascent to Arcalis the next day and the Colombian never looked in trouble even if he failed to attack.
Froome, however, is confident he is well equipped to add a third Tour title to his trophy cabinet, especially because he feels he has the best team support.
"It really is a good place to be at the moment and I'm really happy to have the yellow jersey on my shoulders, tactically and obviously for the morale for the team," the 31-year-old told a news conference on Monday.
"Tactically, it just puts the shoe on the other foot. It's up to other teams now to have to go out there and try and gain back time that they've lost already.
"It means with the team that I've got, they've shown themselves over the last few days just in terms of numbers in the final that we do have the strongest team here."
Others disagreed on the Team Sky riders' form.
Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2r-La Mondiale), who is sixth overall, 44 seconds off the pace, said he was expecting more from the British outfit.
"Sky are very powerful but I expected them to be much stronger yesterday. In the final climb, Froome was a bit alone," he said.
Froome may be wondering if he has what it takes to drop Quintana like he used to and he remains in the Colombian's range of fire.
"If Froome unbeatable at the moment? I feel Nairo is, too," said Quintana's team mate Alejandro Valverde.
"There's still a long way to go in this Tour - you must attack when it's your real time. You never know when it comes," he warned.
Quintana and Froome now look set for a mouthwatering duel in the 12th stage on Thursday between Montpellier and the intimidating Mont Ventoux, where the Briton had beaten his rival by 29 seconds in 2013.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alison Williams)