Chris Froome insists the 100th edition of the Tour de France isn’t over despite increasing his overall lead by 20 seconds after winning the Stage 17 individual time trial in Chorges this afternoon. Bauke Mollema of Belkin, in second place overall this morning, was overhauled by two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff, whose team vows they will fight for the yellow jersey and who also now have Roman Kreuziger placed third.
Contador had seemed poised to win today’s stage having outpaced everyone including the race leader at each intermediate time check on the 32 kilomtre course from Embrun , but Froome, as race leader the last man out on the 32 kilometre course pulled out a fast descent to the finish to go 9 seconds quicker than the Spaniard by the end of the stage.
The Team Sky rider, runner-up to team mate Sir Bradley Wiggins in Paris 12 months ago, now leads Contador by 4 minutes 34 seconds ahead of three big days in the Alps.
Those begin tomorrow with perhaps the most eagerly awaited stage of the 2013 Tour when the Alpe d’Huez will be climbed not once but twice; Froome has won both of the big summit finish stages in the race so far, each time taking the best part of two minutes out of his rivals.
After today’s stage, however, the man who has three times posted the second quickest time in a Tour de France individual time trial – twice last year to team mate Bradley Wiggins, and in Saint-Malo last week to Tony Martin, coincidentally the men who finished above him at London 2012 when he got Olympic bronze – revealed that today he was looking to limit his losses rather than win.
He was at pains to underline, however, that he believes the race is far from over ahead of the next three key stages in the mountains, and also sought to mend fences with Contador, having criticised the Saxo-Tinkoff rider yesterday when he himself nearly crashed when the Spaniard came off his bike after taking a corner too hard on the descent to the finish in Gap.
Chris Froome of Team Sky, leader of the 100th edition of the Tour de France.
I'm really surprised with today's result. I went in almost prepared to lose a little bit of time just thinking about the days to come and not wanted to absolutely put myself in the hurt-box today ahead of tomorrow's two times up Alpe d'Huez.
I didn't hurt myself as much as I did on the first time trial but I was really surprised. I was quite encouraged to hear the time checks and to hear that I wasn't actually too far off Contador on the first check and the second check.
I knew, having changed to the time trial bike for the end – with the bigger gears, I was able to definitely gain a few seconds.
It's going to be a race all the way to Paris. Even though I've got quite a good buffer of over four minutes, I still feel like that's being challenged every day and especially now as these next three days are going to be the hardest of the Tour so far.
There's no personality clash between Contador and myself. We get on well enough on the bike – and, I mean, it's healthy competition I think.
I just thought yesterday he did push the limits a little bit too far by taking risks in the descent and then putting me at danger by crashing just in front of me.
All it needs is one little mistake like that and that could be the end of someone's Tour.
I think he also needs to remember that this is a bike race and it's not life-and-death in that sense.
I'm not looking to win stages. I'm just trying to do whatever I can at the moment to hold on to whatever lead I can at the moment with the yellow jersey.
I think that comes first as a priority and anything outside of that is a bonus at this point.
Besides Contador moving into second place overall, his team mate Roman Kreuziger likewise leapfrogged Mollema and lies second; the team may not have got the stage win they crave, but are clearly satisfied with their day’s work.
What’s more, with three-time world time trial champion Michael Rogers posting the 11th fastest time today, Saxo-Tinkoff are back in the lead of the team classification.
But despite Froome’s commanding lead in the overall, the Danish team is determined to take the race to him in those big three stages in the Alps.
What a spectacular stage to watch. Of course it's always a bitter pill swallowing a second place when you're this close.
On the other hand, I'm very happy to see that both Roman Kreuziger and Alberto Contador are doing such a stunning time trial and we have now conquered the two lower spots of the podium.
Tomorrow and the next days we will continue our plan and follow our objective, which is to win Tour de France.
Naturally, it's an advantage tactically to have two cards to play on the following stages but we have to do it intelligently. There are quite a few options.
The grittiest performance of the afternoon, without doubt, came from Jean-Christophe Péraud of AG2R La Mondiale.
The 36-year-old from Toulouse, who was in ninth position overall this morning, had fractured his collarbone while riding the course earlier today but took to the start nonetheless.
However, he crashed with just 2 kilometres left to ride and has now abandoned the race.
Péraud, awarded the day’s combativity prize, and perhaps a worthier winner than most, was in a sanguine mood when talking about his day at the post-stage press conference.
AG2R La Mondiale’s Jean-Christophe Péraud, winner of today’s combativity prize, reflecting on his crash towards the end of today’s course.
It was is not the fracture that crippled me going around the turn.I did not feel like taking risks, I went down doing what I could do, but I was surprised myself by this turn where I crashed.
This is part of the sport. I am in good health and it's only a broken collarbone.
It will be a relief to get home, and then we will aim for another objective when my body recovers.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.