Chris Froome sensationally made it five stage wins in just eight days for British cyclists at the 2016 Tour de France on Saturday (9 July). Following on from opening week victories achieved by compatriots Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings, Team Sky's defending champion took the yellow jersey from Greg van Avermaet in the Pyrenees spa town of Bagneres-de-Luchon after an innovative and audacious solo attack that came at the start of a rapid descent down the Col de Peyresourde.
Froome, who earlier appeared to hand off a spectator who was foolishly running alongside him, maintained a phenomenally quick pace thereafter, even perching rather painfully on his crossbar as he hurtled through at an average speed of 62.5km/h over the final 15.5km. Having spent the opening week content to bide his time alongside key race rivals such as Nairo Quintana in the peloton, the two-time winner now jumps from fifth in the general classification to lead Le Tour by 16 seconds ahead of Adam Yates and Joaquim Rodriguez.
"It wasn't really planned," he said of that bold move. "I thought I'd give it a try in the downhill as the few tries on the climb didn't work out. They were sticking to us. So I decided to give it a go in the descent. It was cool. Bike racing is just fun, but maybe I spent a little bit too much.
"Tomorrow is a hard stage but I take every second I can. It's just a really good feeling to win. The guys rode all day so I did it for them."
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford added: "When people start thinking you're predictable and conservative and everything else, you always have the element of surprise. We thought we'd use that this year. For Sergio Henao to attack when he did, that shook things up and it we had an opportunity from there. We get criticism for being poor downhill so why not?"
Orica-BikeExchange's Yates endured a difficult time at the finish yesterday, rewarded for engineering a seven-second gap to the peloton by being knocked off his bike in farcical circumstances when the flamme rouge arch – used to pinpoint the final 1km mark – deflated after a spectator accidentally caught their belt on a power cable. He required stitches to a chin wound, but later received an apology from race organisers and rightfully received the white jersey for the best young rider and was promoted to second overall. He retains both positions after another impressive ride.
Ireland's Daniel Martin took second behind Froome and now lies fourth overall, 17 seconds adrift of the lead. Cavendish remains in sprinter's green and Rafal Majka claimed the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey ahead of Thibaut Pinot despite being denied full points by Team Sky on the Val Louron. Tomorrow's stage, the last before a first rest day, provides a difficult and mountainous 184.5km challenge from the Vielha Val d'Aran in Spain to Andorre Arcalis.