Fantastic Froome wins time trial to strengthen grip on yellow jersey

Chris Froome took another huge step towards Tour de France victory by extending his overall lead with an outstanding performance in today’s individual time trial.

The Team Sky rider stopped the clock in an incredible 30min 43sec on a mostly uphill 17km course. His time was 21 seconds faster than runner-up Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin and far ahead of all of his rivals for the yellow jersey.

Movistar’s Nairo Quintana finished 1min 10sec down, Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange was 1min 23sec adrift and Bauke Mollema who rides for Trek-Segafredo was 1min 25sec off the pace.

It means Froome’s overall lead over second-placed Mollema grows from 2min 27sec to 3min 52sec, while third-placed Yates is now 4min 16sec down and fourth-placed Quintana is 4min 37sec back.With just two mountain stages and a flat finale remaining, it now appears that only a crash or a dramatic loss of form can deny Froome a third Tour triumph in Paris on Sunday.

The course began in Sallanches in the Alps with the opeing 4km flat but then climbed for the next 11km and ended with a 2km descent to the finish in Megeve.

The amount of climbing led many riders to use standard road bikes, including Mollema and Richie Porte of BMC Racing, but both Froome and Dumoulin opted to use conventional time trial bikes and they reaped the dividends.

The race leader trailed Porte, Dumoulin and Yates at the 6.5km time split after making only a steady start, and it briefly looked like he wasn’t at his best when he was still behind both Dumoulin and Porte after 10km. But when the rest of the field then began to burn out after their fast starts, Froome’s more measured strategy began to come into its own and he had pulled 13 seconds ahead of Dumoulin and 22 seconds in front of Porte by the 13.5km split.

He still had strength in store to stretch out his lead even further in the last 3.5km sector and crossed the line a comfortable winner after a perfectly planned and executed ride.

Of the other overall contenders, Mollema and Quintana both started poorly and never really regained parity with Froome, while Yates began brilliantly but faded badly and consequently saw his cushion over fourth place reduced to 21 seconds.

The Tour continues tomorrow with a 146km stage that starts in Albertville and ends with a category-one summit finish at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc.

Stage 18 result

1 Chris Frooome (GB) Team Sky, 30:43
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, +21sec
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +33
4 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, same time
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +42
6 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal, +1:02
7 Ion Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, +1:03
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, +1:05
9 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, +1:08
10 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +1:10
Selected others
16 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +1:23
17 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +1:25

General classification

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 77:55:53
2 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, +3:52
3 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +4:16
4 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +4:37
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4:57
6 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, +5:00
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +6:08
8 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +6:37
9 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, +7:15
10 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +7:18

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