The longer the Tour de France goes on, the more unstoppable Chris Froome seems. Yesterday the Briton clinched his third stage win in just over a week – this time in the second individual time trial, stretching his overall advantage and passing another key test en route to an increasingly certain victory in Paris.
Although his advantage was considerably smaller than in his previous time-trial victory on the flatlands of Brittany at Mont-Saint-Michel – this time he beat a fast-improving Alberto Contador by nine seconds – Froome's overall margin is now such that by riding steadily he can maintain an iron grip on the race. Even if the 28-year-old Sky rider has eased back slightly, it is a sign of his overall strength that he still wins.
Froome was 11 seconds down on Contador at the second checkpoint, but with a slight opening of the throttle, even if he was extremely careful on two rain-soaked corners, he overtook the Spaniard's time.
"I wasn't at all expecting to win today," Froome said. "I thought with the weather I was not going to take risks and some time losses were inevitable."
Froome already emulated Eddy Merckx when he won on the Ventoux in the yellow jersey. But rather than further imitate the Belgian and gobble up every win he possibly can, Froome said: "My main goal is basically to defend the yellow jersey, not any more stages."
Contador was the picture of disappointment after being denied by such a small margin. But it was far from being all bad news for him and his Saxo-Tinkoff team, as he moved up to second place overall and team-mate Roman Kreuziger into third.
The man they ousted from the podium, Bauke Mollema, lost time steadily in the first section and then misjudged a corner badly and crashed near the finish.
With rider safety uppermost in most people's minds, Froome said he would support calls for today's second ascent of Alpe d'Huez to be cancelled if the rainy conditions rendered the previous drop back down into the valley too dangerous.
"Safety comes first and if it starts raining I would hope they would just make it the first time alone," Froome said.
Ireland's Dan Martin finished 32nd yesterday and stays 10th overall. (© Independent News Service)
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