An expected attack by Chris Froome and Team Sky failed to materialise in the first mountainous stage, Stage 10, of the 2018 Tour de France.
Current yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet entered the stage fully expecting to surrender the lead to the powerful climbers of Team Sky, but the attack never came.
Van Avermaet is handy on rolling terrain and single-day classic races, but he is not a top climber.
That is perhaps why Team Sky chose not to chase him down when he broke away early during the early portion of the stage.
Van Avermaet was left to his own devices when his BMC team leader and best climber, Aussie Richie Porte, broke his collarbone and had to abandon the race.
Part of the reason just about everyone expected Froome and Team Sky to move is that on every one of the previous occasions when Froome has won the Tour, he has taken the yellow jersey on the first mountain stage.
Geraint Thomas, Froomes’ teammate is in second place. According to him, “It was some steep climbs and we were really expecting it to pick up somewhere, but it never really materialised.”
Froome expressed more or less the same thought, saying, “No one really showed all their cards today.”
“Everyone played it a little conservatively maybe thinking about the next two days to come, which are going to be hard as well. From our side, I can just be happy with how the team rode and we had the numbers up front, which was the main thing.”
Froome, in quest of a record-equaling fifth Tour win, is less than four minutes back.
With the difficult climbing stages ahead, Van Avermaet is resigned to being caught and a climber such as Froome can have a good day in the mountains and put substantial time on his rivals.
Lurking alongside Froome are Mikel Landa and Adam Yates. Both of those riders are proficient in the mountains.