With the top contenders watching each other like hawks and generally remaining close together, young Briton Adam Yates took a rare opportunity to streak clear and steal a few seconds on the seventh stage.
But his progress was halted in stunning fashion as the inflatable archway indicating the final kilometre collapsed on him. A fan had accidentally dislodged a pin and the arch came crashing down, knocking Yates off his bike and leaving him with a bloody chin.
Arguably the eighth stage was the one which set the tone for what was to follow as Froome demonstrated a never-before-seen dexterity. The renowned time-trialler and climber proved just as agile on a breakneck descent to the finish of the stage in Bagneres-de-Luchon.
He attacked over the top of the final climb and while Nairo Quintana, his expected main rival, hesitated, Froome adopted an awkward, crouched position while pedalling furiously to snatch 23 seconds from his challengers, winning the stage and the yellow jersey.
TAMING THE WIND
Froome consolidated not only his lead in the race but his growing reputation as the complete rider as he broke away alongside world champion Peter Sagan in the final 12km of the 11th stage.
“All day my team-mates protected me, right to the end of the stage. When I saw Sagan go away I thought, ‘I have to follow him and maybe together we can get there’,” said Froome. He predictably lost the sprint finish to Sagan but his mastery of the perilous crosswinds allowed him to snare another 12 more seconds.
The image which will ensure this Tour lingers long in the memory is that of the yellow-shirted Froome running, bike-less, to the finish line on the iconic Mont Ventoux.
Pandemonium reigned in the final kilometre of the 12th stage as encroaching fans blocked the road to the finish, forcing a photographer’s motorbike to stop short.
Richie Porte crashed into the back of it, with Froome and Bauke Mollema following suit. His bike was broken but not his champion’s spirit. He simply set off on foot until a replacement bike could be proffered.
A rare moment of drama for Froome, potentially more penalising than his fall on Ventoux. Froome hit the deck again, this time on a slippery descent as rain fell on the 19th stage. But again he didn’t panic, and Thomas came to his aid, handing over his bicycle for Froome to ride the final 25km to the finish, bloodied and bruised.
He lost a handful of seconds to fellow rivals but actually gained time on Mollema, thus again, despite adversity, extending his lead.