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Sunday, July 14, 2013
5 things to know about Tour de France

Associated Press

MONT VENTOUX, France -- Five things to know as the Tour de France enters its second and final rest day on Monday:

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1. ONE DAY, TWO JERSEYS: Chris Froome of Britain finished Sunday with the stage victory, the yellow jersey still on his back and an even bigger lead over his main rival Alberto Contador. He also got a bonus: The red-and-white, polka-dot jersey awarded to the top climber. Froome picked up enough points on the massive 13-mile ascent up to Mont Ventoux to take it from Frenchman Pierre Rolland, who started Stage 15 with it. "For the moment, he's the best climber in the world, it's simple," said Dave Brailsford, manager of Froome's Sky team. Froome now leads the climbing classification with 83 points -- 17 more than Colombia's Nairo Quintana and 30 clear of Spaniard Mikel Nieve. Rolland dropped to fourth. Because Froome has the yellow jersey and Quintana holds the white jersey for the best young rider, Nieve will wear the polka-dot jersey on Tuesday's 16th stage after the second and final rest day on Monday.

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2. LIMITLESS SKY? Brailsford, the mastermind of the British team who's gunning for a second-straight Tour victory after Bradley Wiggins' triumph last year, summed up why Froome is currently head and shoulders above his rivals at this Tour: Along with "amazing" physical abilities, Brailsford said Froome uses his energy more efficiently than anyone else in the peloton. "This efficiency issue is something ... I haven't seen anybody picking up on it."

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3. FANS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN: Men in mankinis, another running with a plastic wild boar under his arm, inflatable outfits and animal costumes, and countless thousands of fans screaming at the top of their voices. Yes, it's another crazy mountain climb at the Tour de France. Ascents in the Alps, Pyrenees and, on Sunday, the legendary Mont Ventoux in Provence always draw giant crowds. It's partly because the riders go slower uphill, so there's more for the spectators to see than on a flat stage, when the peloton zips past in a few blinks of the eye. Also, the climbs are where the race can be won and lost, so the sporting drama is more intense. And, finally, because of the wild party atmosphere on the ascents. At times on the 13-mile ride up Ventoux, the riders almost were parting the crowd with their front wheels. Race organizers regularly remind spectators to make way and stay safely on the side of the road. Yet there are always those who cannot resist the temptation to run alongside the riders as they labor uphill, and get themselves on television.

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4. LEMOND VENTOUX: Greg LeMond believes Froome has the Tour victory locked up. LeMond, the only American winner of cycling's greatest race after Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong were stripped of their titles, was on hand at the finish Sunday. LeMond, who won in 1986, 1989 and 1990, said Froome is "too strong" and "would have to have a really bad day" to not be in the yellow jersey when the race ends July 21 in Paris. LeMond said he wasn't surprised about Froome's success in this Tour, and suggested that the Briton's riding strategies reminded him of his own era: "That's what you did when you were really good," he said. LeMond also said he's encouraged that young riders are winning stages and races -- a "positive sign" that cycling is "going in the right direction ... There is real talent."

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5. RICHIE THE ROCKET: Although his buddy and team leader Froome got the win, Richie Porte actually landed many of the knockout punches on the way up Ventoux. With 5 miles of ascending still to go, the Australian took position at the front of the yellow jersey's group, and stepped on the gas. His accelerations spat out rivals from the back, unable to keep up with the upped ante. About a mile later, the only rider left other than Froome and Porte was Alberto Contador of Spain, a two-time Tour winner. Porte then pulled over and looked at Froome, who lit up his afterburners and left Contador in his dust. Ciao, Alberto! "That's how Chris likes it -- nice and punchy. That's suits me," said Porte, who finished second behind Froome in the first Pyrenees stage. "I would've liked to have gone a little bit up further, (but) at the end of the day, Chris is so strong."

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AP Sports Writers Jerome Pugmire and John Leicester in Vaison-la-Romaine, France, contributed to this report.