Race leader Chris Froome of Britain cycles past spectators to win the 32km individual time-trial 17th stage of the Tour de France. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Chris Froome continued his march towards a maiden Tour de
France title when he beat fierce rival Alberto Contador by
nine seconds to win the 17th stage, a 32km time trial.
Team Sky rider Froome, who has now three stage wins to his
name in the Tour this year, clocked 51 minutes 33 seconds to
extend his overall lead over second-placed Contador to 4:34
going into three gruelling stages in the Alps.
"It's a surprise for me to win today," Briton Froome told
"The first descent was dangerous and technical, I did not
want to take risks.
"I was a bit down in the first two time checks but I feel the
bike change helped me towards the end," added Froome, who
switched to a time trial bike just before the second time
Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez took third on the day one second
behind Contador as Dutchman Bauke Mollema lost his third
place overall to Czech Roman Kreuziger, who trails Froome by
4:51 after finishing fourth.
The time trial featured two second-category climbs and two
descents, the first one being particularly tricky.
Contador went full throttle after opening a two-second gap on
the first time check but Froome, who on Tuesday accused the
Spaniard of careless riding, had more in the tank.
"I'm very happy to see that both Roman Kreuziger and Alberto
Contador did such a stunning time trial and we have now
conquered the two lower spots of the podium," Saxo-Tinkoff
sports director Fabrizio Guidi told reporters.
"Tomorrow and the next days we will continue our plan and
follow our objective, which is to win the Tour de France."
France's Jean-Christophe Peraud, ninth overall before the
start of the stage, had a nightmarish day. He broke his right
collarbone in a crash during a training ride but decided to
take the start, only to come off his bike again two
kilometres from the finish.
Unsurprisingly, Peraud pulled out of the race.
Thursday's 18th stage takes the peloton from Gap to l'Alpe
d'Huez, the 21 hairpins to the resort being climbed twice
with the treacherous descent from the Col de Sarenne
sandwiched in between.
Up to one million spectators are expected on the ascent,
according to the local office of tourism quoted by French TV.
With rain forecast, there has been media speculation the
stage could end after the first ascent of l'Alpe d'Huez to
avoid the descent from the Col de Sarenne but organisers have
declined to comment.
Although he would be disappointed should the second climb up
l'Alpe d'Huez be cancelled, Froome believes safety has to
"That's a dangerous descent as it is so if it starts raining
I will hope that they cancel it.
"I do think it's a good idea, it's a dangerous descent," he