Chris Froome continued his march towards a maiden Tour de France title when he beat fierce rival Alberto Contador by nine seconds to win the 17th stage,a 32-km time trial on Wednesday.
Team Sky rider Froome,who has now three stage wins to his name in the Tour this year,clocked 51 minutes 33 seconds to extend his overall lead over second-placed Contador to 4:34 going into three gruelling stages in the Alps.
Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez took third place on the day one second behind Contador as Dutchman Bauke Mollema lost his third place overall to Czech Roman Kreuziger,who trails Froome by 4:51. The time trial featured two second-category climbs and two descents,the first one being particularly tricky.
Contador went full throttle after opening a two-second gap on the first time check but Froome,who on Tuesday accused the Spaniard of careless riding,had more in the tank.
France’s Jean-Christophe Peraud,ninth overall before the start of the stage,had a nightmarish day. He broke his right collarbone in a crash but decided to take the start,only to come off his bike again two kilometres from the finish.
Unsurprisingly,Peraud pulled out of the race. Thursday’s 18th stage takes the peloton from Gap to l’Alpe d’Huez,with the 21 hairpins to the resort being climbed twice with the treacherous descent from the Col de Sarenne sandwiched in between. It is considered one of the most difficult descents of the Tour.