ROOKIE CON­QUERS FA­BLED GAL­I­BIER.

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

BRI­AN­CON, FRANCE — Speed­ing down­hill at 75 km/h on un­pro­tected Alpine roads, Tour de France rookie Pri­moz Roglic scaled the race’s high­est peak and then bar­relled down the other side while hold­ing off the com­pe­ti­tion on the famed Gal­i­bier climb to win stage 17 on Wednes­day.

Chris Froome con­sol­i­dated his over­all lead as Fabio Aru lost touch with the three-time cham­pion’s group on the pun­ish­ing gra­di­ents of the Gal­i­bier.

The moun­tain pass rises to 2,642 me­tres in al­ti­tude, with the thin­ning air com­pound­ing the ef­fort for the rid­ers.

Froome fin­ished one minute and 13 sec­onds af­ter Roglic in a group with Rigob­erto Uran and Ro­main Bardet, who climbed to sec­ond and third over­all re­spec­tively. Aru dropped from sec­ond to fourth.

De­ter­mined not to give any ground, Froome out­sprinted Bardet to the fin­ish line, se­cur­ing four bonus sec­onds for plac­ing third on the stage. Uran was quicker still, beat­ing Froome to get six bonus sec­onds for sec­ond place.

Aru couldn’t keep up with Froome’s group on the Gal­i­bier, fall­ing be­hind af­ter the bursts of ac­cel­er­a­tion from Bardet and Ir­ish rider Dan Martin. Mouth open, the Si­cil­ian re­peat­edly laboured his way back to the group un­til a fi­nal burst of speed to­ward the top from Bardet dropped Aru for good.

Bardet said he was hop­ing to leave Froome be­hind, too. But the Bri­ton showed no signs of dif­fi­culty in stay­ing with him on a stage that moved him a big step closer to keep­ing the yel­low jer­sey all the way to Paris.

“I did my ut­most,” Bardet said. “I raced to take the jer­sey and I came close to drop­ping them at the top of the Gal­i­bier. I at­tacked. That’s the way I love to race. I have no re­grets. I tried ev­ery­thing.”

Bardet, Froome, Uran, French rider War­ren Bar­guil and Mikel Landa zoomed down the long de­scent from the top to­gether, never slow­ing, to pre­vent Aru from catch­ing them.

Aru is now 53 sec­onds be­hind Froome over­all. Uran and Bardet trail the leader by 27 sec­onds.

“It was a big day of climb­ing,” Froome said. “My legs cer­tainly felt a lot bet­ter than a week ago in the Pyre­nees, which is a good sign.”

The Team Sky leader was greeted at the fin­ish by French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who fol­lowed the stage in a car with the race di­rec­tor.

An­other tough day of climb­ing awaits Thurs­day, with a moun­tain­top fin­ish on the Col d’Izoard. If the over­all stand­ings re­main as close as they are now, the fi­nal time trial on Satur­day could be de­ci­sive in de­ter­min­ing the podium places at the fin­ish in Paris the next day.

“At this stage of the race, ev­ery­one’s on their hands and knees, let’s see what hap­pens,” Froome said. “It’s still all to race for.”

Roglic, a former ski jumper, is the first Slove­nian to win a stage in the 114-year his­tory of the Tour.

The Team Lotto rider sped away from his own four-man group, which in­cluded two-time cham­pion Al­berto Con­ta­dor, with five kilo­me­tres still left to climb on the Gal­i­bier. He laboured to the top, through bar­ren slopes of scree and patchy grass, and then raced down alone over the last 28 kilo­me­tres to the fin­ish at the Serre Che­va­lier ski sta­tion.

“It’s un­be­liev­able,” Roglic said. “A re­ally crazy stage.”

The Tour lost Mar­cel Kit­tel, the win­ner of five stages this year, af­ter he crashed in the first of four as­cents on the 183-kilo­me­tre stage from La Mure. Kit­tel had been lead­ing the Tour’s green jer­sey, for points col­lected in sprints.

CHRISTOPHE ENA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

France’s Ro­main Bardet, left, tries to break away from Britain’s Chris Froome, wear­ing the over­all leader’s yel­low jer­sey, Ire­land’s Daniel Martin and Colom­bia’s Rigob­erto Uran, as they climb Gal­i­bier pass in stage 17 of the Tour de France.

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