Froome keeps lead

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

In an­other day of drama Sunday in a 104th Tour de France full of twists, Chris Froome broke a back-wheel spoke at the worst pos­si­ble time on Stage 15 — just as his top ri­vals were pick­ing up speed in front of him go­ing into yet an­other pun­ish­ing climb. But Froome re­mains in the lead by 18 sec­onds with less than a week re­main­ing.

LE PUY-EN-VE­LAY, France — If Chris Froome rides into Paris Sunday with the Tour de France’s famed yel­low jersey still on his shoul­ders, it will be im­pos­si­ble to ar­gue that he didn’t earn the vic­tory.

In an­other day of drama Sunday in a 104th Tour full of twists, Froome broke a back-wheel spoke at the worst pos­si­ble time on Stage 15 — just as his top ri­vals were pick­ing up speed in front of him go­ing into yet an­other pun­ish­ing climb.

By the time Froome had stopped, taken a wheel off his team­mate Michal Kwiatkowski and got go­ing again, they were long gone, al­ready about one minute down the road.

Froome had two choices: pour all his en­ergy into catch­ing them or lose his over­all race lead and its yel­low jersey that has al­ready changed hands three times since the Tour started in Ger­many on July 1.

Froome hared off af­ter Ro­main Bardet, Fabio Aru and Rigob­erto Uran — the three rid­ers all within 30 sec­onds of Froome in the over­all stand­ings of the Tour that, af­ter a ho-hum be­gin­ning, has be­come thrillingly close.

Ear­lier at the Tour, Froome’s ri­vals had waited for the race leader to catch up when he suf­fered a grear prob­lem. Not this time.

Cheered on by par­ti­san crowds on the 5-mile slog up the steep Col de Peyra Tail­lade — scaled for the very first time by the Tour — Bardet’s French team AG2R put the ham­mer down.

Fur­ther back, Froome re­al­ized that if he didn’t catch them by the top, he might never do so. The race was on.

Helped first by team­mates Mikel Nieve and then by Mikel Landa, and booed by some spec­ta­tors as he la­bored past them, Froome worked fu­ri­ously on the climb to reel in Bardet’s group.

By re­cov­er­ing from the mis­for­tune, Froome now takes the jersey and an 18-sec­ond lead over Aru into to­day’s rest day, the last of two at the Tour, ahead of a cru­cial last week of racing in the Alps and with a time trial in Mar­seille.

The stage was won by Bauke Mollema of the Nether­lands, with a solo break­away at the front of the race.

AP/JEFF PACHOUD

Froome

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