Zakarin wins as Froome zooms to big­ger lead

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SA­MUEL PETREQUIN

FINHAUT-EMOSSON, SWITZER­LAND

— Il­nur Zakarin won the first Alpine stage of the Tour de France af­ter us­ing a late attack in the fi­nal climb on Wed­nes­day, while race leader Chris Froome in­creased his lead in the over­all stand­ings.

Zakarin was part of a break­away that formed early in the 184.5-kilo­me­tre 17th stage from Bern to the ar­ti­fi­cial lake of Finhaut-Emosson in Switzer­land.

Af­ter Rafal Ma­jka and Jar­lin­son Pan­tano moved away from the lead­ing pack on the de­scent of Col de la For­claz, the Rus­sian cy­clist caught them and launched a fu­ri­ous attack on the last climb with 6.5 km left.

It was Zakarin’s first stage win at cy­cling’s big­gest event.

“This re­sult is not a sur­prise for me, in the first week I also tried to go for it,” said Zakarin, who frac­tured a col­lar­bone ear­lier this year at the Giro d’Italia af­ter crash­ing in a down­hill.

Zakarin, who was sus­pended in 2009 for two years af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for the for­bid­den an­abolic methan­dienone, fin­ished 55 sec­onds ahead of Pan­tano. Ma­jka was third, 1:26 back.

Rid­ing sev­eral min­utes be­hind the break­away riders, Richie Porte at­tacked from the yel­low jer­sey group around two kilo­me­tres from the fin­ish be­fore Froome ac­cel­er­ated. Nairo Quin­tana was the only one able to fol­low the de­fend­ing cham­pion’s fre­netic pace, but the Colom­bian climber cracked af­ter a few hun­dred me­tres.

Froome and Porte — who rode in sup­port of Froome at Team Sky be­fore he joined BMC this sea­son — crossed the fin­ish line to­gether.

Froome, the 2013 and 2015 cham­pion at the Tour, now leads Bauke Mollema by 2:27 over­all. Adam Yates is third, 2:53 off the pace. Quin­tana sits in fourth place, 3:27 be­hind his Bri­tish ri­val.

“It was very dif­fi­cult to­day be­cause of the heat,” Froome said. “But my team was in­cred­i­ble, they did an amaz­ing job and I was able to stay with the best.”

The stage started in Bern fol­low­ing the sec­ond and fi­nal rest day and fea­tured two ma­jor climbs in the fi­nal 30 km: Col de la For­claz, a 13-km climb with an av­er­age gra­di­ent of 7.9 per cent, and the bru­tal be­yond-cat­e­gory 10.4-km as­cent to the fin­ish line.

The day be­gan with an early crash in­volv­ing Quin­tana’s team­mate Gorka Iza­guirre, who was forced to aban­don with a sus­pected frac­tured col­lar­bone.

Af­ter sev­eral break­away at­tempts, a group of 14 riders — in­clud­ing world cham­pion Peter Sa­gan — formed at the front of the race. Froome’s team­mates did not chase and the lead­ing pack built a 13-minute lead.

The scenic route near Mont Blanc took the pelo­ton up and down ser­pen­tine roads be­tween neatly ar­ranged vine­yards with snow­capped moun­tains in the dis­tance. Once the pack reached the moun­tains, Sa­gan got dropped at the bot­tom of Col de la For­claz.

The race crosses back into France for Stage 18 on Thurs­day, a 17-km in­di­vid­ual time trial from Sal­lanches to Megeve.

MICHAEL STEELE, GETTY IMAGES

Richie Porte and Chris Froome head to the fin­ish line of the 184.5km Stage 17 from Berne to Finhaut-Emosson Wed­nes­day.

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