Team Sky's Chris Froome nudged his overall lead in the Tour de France upward a bit with victory in today's hilly time trial from Embrun to Chorges, France. Froome overcame strong rides by two Spanish challengers, Saxo-Tinkoff's Alberto Contador and Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez, each of whom is showing some third-week peak form en route to challenging for a podium place in Paris, took turns setting new best times until Froome came in, nine seconds up on Contador and ten on Rodriguez.
Froome's ride is sneakily impressive. Sure, if you saw "time trial" and assumed he would win by multiple minutes again, you might be disappointed by what could be called a draw in terms of the general classification. But this was a tricky course with narrow, twisting descents and occasional rain showers. Worse for Froome, the course dried out some as Contador and the other contenders were finishing up, but some late rain dampened the descent of the Cote de Reallon as Froome was coming down. Somehow, the Brit managed to avoid major risks and close up a 15 second gap to Contador from the final intermediate time check, to take the narrow stage win. Talk about threading the needle.
And care was required; ask Jean-Christophe Peraud of AG2R. The Frenchman crashed in practice this morning, sustaining a slight clavicle fracture, and then crashed again on wet paint with 2km in the stage, being forced to abandon in tragic fashion.
Most of the remaining contenders stayed close. Only Bauke Mollema of Belkin, who came into today second overall, could be considered to have had a poor day, briefly hitting the deck, losing two minutes and dropping back to fourth place overall. His teammate Laurens ten Dam did the same. Roman Kreuziger (+0.23 today) and Nairo Quintana (+1.11) more or less held their positions. Alejandro Valverde, Quintana's Movistar teammate, looked like a potential stage winner (if not like a guy about to return to relevance), but he wound up 30 seconds behind Froome. For tomorrow, Rodriguez looks like a guy whose form is coming around, while Saxo-Tinkoff will try to isolate Froome and work their 2-v-1 advantage, if possible.
- Chris Froome, Sky
- Alberto Contador, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 0.09
- Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 0.10
- Roman Kreuziger, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 0.23
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar, at 0.30
- Nairo Quintana, Movistar, at 1.11
- Michal Kwiatkowski, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 1.33
- Jakob Fuglsang, Astana, at 1.34
- Andrew Talansky, Garmin-Sharp, at 1.41
- Tejay van Garderen, BMC, at 1.51
- Contador, at 4.34
- Kreuziger, at 4.51
- Bauke Mollema, Belkin, at 6.23
- Quintana, at 6.58
- Laurens ten Dam, Belkin, at 8.23
- Fuglsang, at 8.56
- Kwiatkowski, at 11.10
- Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp, at 12.50