Froome zooms to­wards de­fend­ing Tour ti­tle

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SERRE-CHE­VA­LIER: Chris Froome kept con­trol of his ri­vals in a gru­elling Alpine ride to move a step closer to a fourth Tour de France ti­tle yes­ter­day, re­tain­ing the leader’s yel­low jer­sey af­ter the 17th stage, won by Slove­nia’s Pri­moz Roglic,

The de­fend­ing cham­pion was at­tacked by last year’s run­ner-up Ro­main Bardet and Ire­land’s Dan Martin in the lung-bust­ing as­cent to the Col du Gal­i­bier but he stayed calm and cov­ered ev­ery of­fen­sive move.

Bardet and Martin’s ac­cel­er­a­tions, how­ever, were dam­ag­ing for Fabio Aru as the Ital­ian lost 31 sec­onds and slipped from sec­ond to fourth place over­all.

Froome leads Colom­bian Rigob­erto Uran and Bardet by 27 sec­onds each, while Aru is now 53 sec­onds off the pace.

Cy­cling en­thu­si­asts had an­tic­i­pated an Al­berto Con­ta­dor vic­tory as the two-time cham­pion, too far down in the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion to threaten Froome, threw cau­tion to the wind with a long-range at­tack.

But the Spa­niard cracked on the Gal­i­bier, a 17.7km as­cent at an av­er­age 6.9 per­cent gra­di­ent, cul­mi­nat­ing at 2.642m above sea level, when Roglic at­tacked from the day’s break­away group.

Martin and Bardet launched count­less at­tacks of their own on the climb, but Froome stayed in con­trol. The Ir­ish­man, whose un­cle Stephen Roche won the Tour in 1987, paid the price later on, but French­man Bardet hung on to fin­ish fourth be­hind Uran and Froome. Uran and Froome snatched small time bonuses but Bardet missed out, mean­ing the Colom­bian from the Can­non­daleDra­pac team leads the French­man by a few hun­dredths of a sec­ond. Roglic held the group of main con­tenders off to be­come the first Slove­nian to win a Tour stage, cross­ing the line 1:13 ahead of Froome, Bardet, Uran and French­man War­ren Bar­guil, who con­sol­i­dated his grip on the polka dot jer­sey for the moun­tains clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

Ger­man Mar­cel Kit­tel, holder of the green jer­sey for the points clas­si­fi­ca­tion, aban­doned the race af­ter a crash. New leader Aus­tralian Michael Matthews looks likely to wear the jer­sey all the way to Paris thanks to his big lead over sec­ond-placed An­dre Greipel.

To­day’s stage, a 179.5km ride from Bri­an­con to the 2,360m Col d’Izoard, is likely to be the lastchance sa­loon for Bardet and Uran to un­seat Froome ahead of Satur­day’s fi­nal time trial, which is ex­pected to favour the Bri­ton. – Reuters

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