Monday 26 September 2016

Chris Froome tightens grip on yellow jersey as Ilnur Zakarin takes stage 17 win

Ian Parker

Published 20/07/2016 | 16:31

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, is followed by Australia's Richie Porte, as they climb during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 184.5 kilometers (114.3 miles) with start in Bern and finish in Finhaut-Emosson, Switzerland
Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, is followed by Australia's Richie Porte, as they climb during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 184.5 kilometers (114.3 miles) with start in Bern and finish in Finhaut-Emosson, Switzerland

Chris Froome extended his advantage in the yellow jersey as Ilnur Zakarin won stage 17 of the Tour de France to Finhaut-Emosson.

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After Katusha's Zakarin took stage honours up the road, Froome raced clear of Adam Yates and Nairo Quintana late on the final climb while Bauke Mollema, who started the day second overall, was dropped by the group of contenders.

As Froome crossed the line alongside former team-mate Richie Porte, Quintana was dropped by Yates as his hopes of challenging Froome for yellow were dealt a severe blow.

The provisional general classification showed Team Sky's Froome two minutes and 27 seconds clear of Trek-Segafredo's Mollema, while 23-year-old Briton Yates of Orica-BikeExchange was third, two minutes and 53 seconds back.

But most encouraging of all for Team Sky will have been the sight of Quintana completely unable to respond as the attacks began as the Movistar man finished 20 seconds behind Yates.

The Colombian has usually come on strong in the third week of Grand Tours and threatened Froome's position in yellow late in last year's Tour, but does not appear to have the legs to rival him again.

Ireland's Dan Martin remains in ninth position but is now 5:50 behind Froome.

Zakarin rode clear of stage 15 winner Jarlinson Pantano of IAM Cycling and Tinkoff's Rafal Majka in the king of the mountain's polka dot jersey to collect his first Tour de France stage win.

"I did my best today," the 26-year-old Russian said. "I'm really happy now. Thank you to my team-mates, they've been super. This result is not a surprise for me. In the first week, I also tried to go for it."

For Froome, who appears to be closing in on a third Tour victory, it was a near perfect scenario as he was pulled up the hill by Porte without needing to do a turn on the front himself ahead of Thursday's time trial.

"I don't think it was possible to go much faster there, Richie seemed to be doing just fine on his own," Froome said. "Tactically for me there is really no need to get on the front and start pulling on the final.

"Tomorrow is going to be crucial and this is the first day of a four-day block (in the Alps)."

While not writing off Quintana, Froome acknowledged that the man expected to be his strongest challenger here is not living up to his pre-race billing.

"It's been a very difficult Tour for Nairo," he said. "He's still a great rival and a big challenger for me but he lost more time today.

"I think for him to re-enter into the game again he's going to have to do a real good time trial tomorrow."

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