With Froome so far ahead, what can keep him from winning? Mind games and rain. And in that sense, Contador may have scored a first point, albeit unintentionally.
Contador’s crash clearly shook Froome a bit, the five, six turns after that were very wobbly for the Brit. And it seems he wasn’t able to forget about it at the finish either, given that last night at 11pm he still tweeted:
Almost went over your head @albertocontador.. Little more care next time?
It looks like Contador has gotten into Froome’s head, like a pesky Spanish bilharzia bug. Add to that the possible rain on the descents today and the next days and strange things could happen.
We saw it in the Giro with Wiggins, confidence in descending is a funny thing. As much as Froome tries to be different from Wiggo, in this sense he may be similar. I don’t like the train of thought that Wiggins and Froome are mere human robots following orders from their coaches, but it cannot be denied that they do rely greatly on being told what to do. While Cavendish dove into the gap during the echelon stage and was the last guy to make it into the front group, Froome who was 10m behind decided instead to get on the radio.
With a strong team and good preparation, this is a golden set-up. But on the descent, team mates and radios are of no use. It’s just you and your thoughts, and if those thoughts are thoughts of fear, you’re in trouble.
In the time trial, this may pose a small problem for Froome, especially if it stays wet. In the coming days, the problem may grow. I have little doubt that Contador will descend like a maniac off the back of Alpe d’Huez. That road is terrible at the best of times, in the rain it will be the ultimate test of nerves. Especially if Contador decides to take some bad lines to freak people out, we may end up with more than a few riders hanging off the trees there. Or worse.
I can’t say I am looking forward to it, as I just hope that everybody stays safe. But descending is as much a part of cycling as climbing, and it is a legitimate spot to attack. If Froome doesn’t want to be caught behind a crashing Contador again, he’d better make sure he is ahead of him. And Sky fans should pray their sports psychologist has learned from the Wiggins case.