The Press

Barguil wins battle, Froome set to win war

- CYCLING

French rider Warren Barguil triumphed on the barren slopes of the fearsome Col d’Izoard climb in the Alps, winning his second stage of the 104th Tour de France while Chris Froome successful­ly defended his overall race lead, putting him within touching distance of a fourth Tour crown.

On the last day of climbing in the Alps yesterday, Froome lost a handful of seconds to French rider Romain Bardet, who moved to second in the overall standings, relegating Rigoberto Uran of Colombia to third.

But Froome still leads Bardet by 23 seconds, a margin that the French rider looks unlikely to close before the finish Sunday (Monday NZT) in Paris.

‘‘I gave it all, I thought I was going to suffocate as I crossed the line,’' Bardet said. ‘‘I have no regrets. I did everything I could.’'

Froome was relieved to put the Alps behind him. The mountains can crack even the best riders, and with them over with, there remain no real obstacles to stop Froome clinching a third straight title.

While not huge, his lead is sufficient to mean he doesn’t have to take risks on the twisting and technical time-trial course in Marseille. The stage out of the Alps through Provence isn’t tough enough to provoke a big shake-up in the standings, and the final ride into Paris is largely procession­al.

‘‘I’m happy that I went through the Alps without any major problem,’' Froome said.

Dion Smith and Jack Bauer were the best of the Kiwi riders finishing 92nd and 93rd, with the same time. Bauer is the leading New Zealander at 106th in the general classifica­tion.

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