STAGE IS SET FOR FROOME
TOUR DE FRANCE
Defending champ goes uphill and further ahead after time trial.
MEGEVE, FRANCE — With a single fist pump after he crossed the finish line Thursday in this fashionable ski resort town, Chris Froome celebrated his convincing win of the final time trial in the Tour de France cycling race and the unofficial beginning of the competition to join him on the podium.
In winning the stage, Froome, the British leader of Team Sky, dramatically affirmed his hold on the yellow jersey of the race leader and all but clinched the trophy: Though the usual fine print about illness, mechanical catastrophe and crashes always applies, he will most likely be declared the winner of the Tour for a third time in Paris on Sunday.
At just 17 kilometres, the stage ranked among the shortest since the Second World War. But the first 14.5 kilometres of the stage, this Tour’s second individual race against the clock, climbed up a mountain in two sections. The opening segment, the Côte de Domancy, had an average grade of 9.4 per cent, with some portions as high as 15 per cent
Froome finished off the job in 30 minutes and 43 seconds, capturing his second stage win of this Tour. His first, unusually, came from a downhill solo breakaway.
Tom Dumoulin, a Dutch rider with the Giant-Alpecin team finished 21 seconds behind Froome for second place on the day.
Dumoulin won the first time trial, which, compared with Thursday’s trial, was flat. But at 44th overall and more than an hour and half behind Froome, he is not a contender for the overall title.
None of the riders who were expected to challenge Froome this year were a threat to him Thursday. Last year, Nairo Quintana, a Colombian on Team Movistar, came close to snatching the lead from Froome on an Alpine stage on the secondto-last day. On Thursday, however, Quintana was a distant 1:10 behind Froome, 10th in the stage. As he crossed under the finish line banner displaying his time, the disappointment on his face was apparent. Quintana emerged from the day fourth overall, 4:37 behind Froome. He will most likely focus in the remaining few days on closing the gap to the podium rather than trying to overtake Froome.
The names on the first three positions in the overall ranking remained as they were before the time trial. But Froome lengthened his lead over his competition. Second place Bauke Mollema fell to 3:52 behind Froome, and Adam Yates, another Briton who is third, dropped to 4:16 behind. While two difficult days in the Alps remain before the largely ceremonial finish in Paris, it would be an exceptional event if either man closed those gaps, particularly given their time trial results.
“I’ve got a fantastic advantage right now,” Froome said, adding that the next two days would involve “not taking risks and staying out of trouble.”
Fans cheer as Britain’s Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, passes during the 18th stage of the Tour de France cycling race Thursday.