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July 9, 2013

Call for backup

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France — The manager of Chris Froome’s team promises that his star rider will never again 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 Tuesday with Stage 10 following 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 like two-time champion 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 learnt 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 on 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 title the following year 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 straight days of arduous mountain climbing in the high Alps.

“Throughout my career I’ve found my best form in the third week,” Contador said.

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