CHORGES — Chris Froome edged Alberto Contador to win Stage 17 of the Tour de France in a rainy time trial and extend his overall lead today.
The British rider was slower than Contador on the first part of the undulating 20-mile course from Embrun to Chorges in the French Alps, but gained time on the final section and finished nine seconds ahead of the Spaniard to clinch his third stage win of the race.
Froome, who has also won two mountain stages, made up for missing out last week when he was edged by Tony Martin in the first time trial on Stage 11.
“This is incredible for me,” Froome said. “This morning I thought to myself: ‘OK, I’m ready to lose a bit of time because tomorrow will be very hard.’ So I’m surprised to win.”
Bauke Mollema held second place overall for several stages, but Contador took his place as the Dutchman dropped to fourth.
Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez finished the stage in third place, 10 seconds behind Froome — who is 4 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of Contador overall and 4:51 clear of Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Roman Kreuziger. Mollema is fourth at 6:23.
The day after narrowly avoiding a crash when Contador fell in front of him on a long downhill, Froome started cautiously on a circuit that was slippery after some afternoon rain and featured two short, sharp climbs and two quick descents.
“The first downhill was dangerous and very technical, so I didn’t want to take any risks,” Froome said. He was two seconds behind Contador at the first time split. The Spaniard took more risks and continued to open up a gap. It looked like Contador’s day, with Froome 11 seconds behind when he reached the top of the second climb. He then started to work on his deficit.
American rider Tejay van Garderen, who was 10th, was relieved to finish the stage.
“The entire course, any moment you could make a mistake and slip up,” he said.
One rider was in trouble before the stage started. French cyclist Jean-Christophe Peraud went for a training ride in the morning and fell on a descent. He sustained a small fracture to his right shoulder, but the team’s medical staff deemed him fit to ride. He then fell again near the end of the race, landing heavily on the same shoulder. He looked bewildered as he sat up on the road, and clutched his arm as team members rushed toward him.
Mollema had a scare near the end when he took a turn too fast and slammed into the barriers but got back up. Riders have three grueling days of climbing in the Alps before the evening finish on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday. (AP)