Team Sky star Chris Froome faces a fight if he's to retain the 2017 Tour de France's yellow jersey after stage 15 on Sunday, a particularly testing route that will threaten to rumble the general classification's current order. On that occasion though, the rider in third place, Samuel Sanchez, was two minutes off the lead.
Quick-Step's Marcel Kittel still leads comfortably here courtesy of his five stage wins, but Sunweb's Michael Matthews is taking full advantage of the lumpy stages across the Massif Central to bite into Kittel's lead. The top four standings remained unchanged: Aru, 18 seconds back in second place; Bardet 23 seconds behind the leader in third; Uran, 29 seconds off the lead, in fourth. I had to get back by the top of the climb. "I thought I might not be able to get back to the front", said Froome.
"I learnt a lot from previous year and how I rode", he said of his ninth paced finish in 2016. But Cilic netted a return, beginning a run of 17 points in a row won by Federer on his serve.
"He's a real threat now for the overall title in Paris", Froome said. Just before the climb I had a problem with my back wheel, it was damaged. They'll need to continue to attack the Sky leader in the mountains, and hope that the defending champion has another bad day. "Certainly in the final, once we hit the category 4 climb with 14km to go, Romain Bardet tried, Rigoberto [Uran] tried over the top - I wouldn't say the GC [general classification] guys didn't try today".
Mikel Landa had stayed safe in the front group, but - despite being fifth overall himself - dropped back to help Froome and dragged the yellow jersey back to the group.
"I hadn't been feeling too much pressure and suddenly I felt the expectation". Froome who has until now has avoided any hostility from the Tour crowd, said he understood: "This is Romain Bardet's home stage I think that it's to be expected the support for him".
We still have hard roads ahead of us, especially in the Alps.
"I think that with the two consecutive stages in the Alps and the finish in altitude, there could be big gaps", said Bardet, Froome's runner-up past year.
Froome can draw confidence from the fact he's the one now wearing yellow, the fact that he and his team have defended their way through some challenging situations in recent days, and the fact he's the rider with the time-trial trump card.
Sunday's 189.5km stage is perhaps the most attractive on this year's race, which organisers believe will showcase "exceptional landscapes that highlight the charm of France" as it passes through the stunning Massif Central mountain range.
The AG2R-La Mondiale leader has ridden very aggressively, and although alliances are a bit of a fantasy, Uran could possibly join him in trying to overthrow Froome, as the Colombian is something of an all-in type of rider. There are only three summit finishes and very few time trial kilometres - with a lot of them still to come next Saturday.
"At this point, it's fighting for every second".