Tour de France Stage 17: Chris Froome wins the time trial, Alberto Contador moves second overall
Team Sky rider extends lead through third stage win of the race, a big three days ahead in the Alps
Chris Froome of Team Sky has taken his third stage win of the 2013 Tour de France in today's individual time trial from Embrun to Chorges, pipping Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff tby just 9 seconds. The Spaniard, who went less than 1 second quicker than compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha, the third fastest man today on the 32 kilometre course, moves second overall, leapfrogging Belkin's Bauke Mollema. The latter, already shipping around 2 minutes to Contador, lost precious seconds late on as he misjudged a bend.
Froome, who had to deal with rain on the final descent and seemed to be going slower than Contador, had swapped from a road bike to a time trial bike towards the end of the stage - something Contador did not do - and extends his overall lead by 20 seconds ahead of three big days in the Alps, starting with tomorrow's unprecedented and eagerly anticipated double ascent of Alpe d'Huez.
He finished 9 secionds ahead of Contador, winning the stage in a time of 51 minutes 33 seconds. Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff team mate Roman Kreuziger moves up to third overall, with Mollema dropping to fourth. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana stays fifth on General Classification, and still leads the best young rider’s competition.
By the time the top ten riders in the overall standings headed out onto the course, BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen, winner last year of the white jersey that Quintana is now favourite to take in this 100th edition of the race, had set the quickest time of 53 minutes 24 seconds.
The American, winner of the Tour of California in May, has had a difficult Tour this time round, being injured in a couple of crashes in the opening week, and had started the day in 55th position overall, more than an hour off the race lead.
His would only turn out to be the 10th quickest time of the afternoon on a course which while not a mountain time trial in the pure sense of the term, did feature two Category 2 climbs before a fast descent to the finish.
First to go quicker was Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, his time of 52 minutes 3 seconds only beaten by Rodriguez, Kreuziger, Contador and Froome.
The hero of the day was undoubtedly AG2R La Mondiale’s Jean-Christophe Peraud, who was in 9th position on the General Classification this morning but fractured his right clavicle after crashing on a reconnaissance of the route this morning.
Heavily strapped up and with pain etched on his face, the former French national time trial champion tried to get round the course, but a crash with just 2 kilometres remaining, when he came down hard on the same side of the collarbone that had been fractured this morning, forced him to abandon the race.
The two riders who went into the penultimate day’s time trial of the 2011 Tour de France in Grenoble put in performances today that were the reverse of those that had decided the fate of that year’s race.
Two years ago, Andy Schleck ceded the race leader’s yellow jersey he had only taken 24 hours previously to Cadel Evans, but today the RadioShack Leopard rider, who has experienced a series of setbacks since fracturing his sacrum during a time trial stage of last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné, put in the 15th fastest time in a discipline that is not his forte.
BMC Racing’s Evans, on the other hand, usually strong against the clock, struggled again today, and to an even greater extent than he had done during May’s Giro d’Italia when during the Stage 18 mountain time trial, when he ceded around two and a half minutes to race winner Vincenzo Nibali of Astana.
Today, Evans, winner of the 2011 Tour de France after seizing the yellow jersey in that time trial in Grenoble, was more than 8 minutes slower than Froome, his time even beaten by Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, who was around half a minute quicker.