The Team Sky man took yellow with an audacious downhill attack to win stage eight into Bagneres-de-Luchon on Saturday, before he defended it in scorching heat and hailstorms on the road to Andorre Arcalis on Sunday.
Only 61 seconds separate the first 11 riders in the general classification, while a number of other dangerous contenders lurk just outside the top ten.
“I’ve said it a few times: I feel this is going to be the biggest battle of my career,” Froome said at the end of stage nine. “That’s what it’s turning out to be. The level is higher and I have to fight for every second I can.”
Froome’s victories in 2013 and 2015 were marked by stage wins on the first summit finish of each Tour. But here, Sunday’s first summit finish saw Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin win out of the breakaway while Froome was busy marking his rivals.
Orica-BikeExchange’s British rider Adam Yates, second overall and only 16 seconds down, was with Froome, as was Irishman Dan Martin of Etixx-QuickStep as he moved up to third, only 19 seconds off yellow. But Froome was primarily concerned with Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. The Colombian, fourth overall and 23 seconds down, is seen as the man most likely to deny Froome a third Tour win – particularly after Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador abandoned on Sunday.
l Spain’s 37-year-old Joaquim Rodriguez – in fifth place on the Tour – has said he will retire at the end of this season, ending a 17-year career marked by podium finishes at all three Grand Tours.