SAINT-NAZAIRE, France – The manager of Chris Froome's team promises his star rider never again will be left exposed in his bid to win the Tour de France.
Froome kept the yellow jersey on a ferociously tough mountain stage Sunday. The British rider will wear it when the race resumes today with Stage 10 after Monday's rest day.
That Froome had to defend the jersey alone in the ninth stage – because all his Sky teammates had been left behind – offers hope to rivals such as Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. If they can again isolate Froome later in the race, perhaps he will be too tired to respond.
"We've learned some lessons, valuable lessons, to take into the rest of the race," Sky manager Dave Brailsford said Monday. "But I'm not going to spell it out. I'm not going to go into the details of the changes we're going to make."
Froome's key teammate is Richie Porte, an Australian who won the Paris-Nice stage race in March. He was unable to help Froome in Stage 9 and wants to make amends.
"Am I going to have another bad day like that? I hope not," he said.
Contador, the Tour winner in 2007 and '09 who was stripped of his 2010 title for doping, is looking forward to getting another shot at Froome in the mountains Sunday.
"I will try and do something," Contador said. "If you don't think you can succeed, then you never will. So we have to take a few risks."
Sunday's 15th stage is the next big climbing trek and features a 12.9-mile ascent to Mont Ventoux. A few days later, riders face three consecutive days of arduous mountain climbing in the high Alps.
"Throughout my career, I've found my best form in the third week," Contador said.
Today's stage is a 122.4-mile route from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo and is made for sprinters. Wednesday, Contador could face trouble in a 20.5-mile time trial.
"It's a very flat time trial, and that is a disadvantage for me," he said.
Froome finished second to Tour winner Bradley Wiggins in the time trial last year and is considerably faster than Contador. The Spaniard might be able to limit the time gaps this time because the dash from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel is relatively short.
Given the way Froome is riding, he can take a big step toward winning the Tour if he extends his overall advantage after the time trial.
Spain's Alejandro Valverde is in second place, 1 minute, 25 seconds behind Froome. Contador is 1:51 behind in sixth, Schleck is four minutes back in 15th, and 2011 champion Cadel Evans trails by 4:36 in 16th.