Monday 22 January 2018

Froome assured of Tour triumph after stage 20

Christopher Froome flashes a thumbs up and a big smile as crosses the finish of the 20th stage of the Tour de France
Christopher Froome flashes a thumbs up and a big smile as crosses the finish of the 20th stage of the Tour de France

Ian Parker

Chris Froome can celebrate victory in the 100th Tour de France after finishing third on today's stage 20 to Annecy-Semnoz.

With only tomorrow's processional stage into Paris to go, Froome will be the second British winner in as many years following on from Team Sky team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins, who was the first in history 12 months ago.

The 28-year-old has led the race since winning stage eight to Ax 3 Domaines, and finished today's stage with a lead of five minutes three seconds over second-placed Nairo Quintana, who won today's stage to crown his debut Tour.

Froome had looked like kicking for victory himself as they neared the flamme rouge, but it was a short-lived move as Quintana immediately responded and moved away to take the stage ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez in second.

The final placings saw Quintana claim second place overall, while Rodriguez also snatched a podium place with Alberto Contador - second at the start of the day - distanced on the final climb.

Jens Voigt, the German known for his attacking style and likely riding in his final Tour, had been in the early break and led by more than a minute and a half going into the final hors categorie climb to Annecy-Semnoz.

But his 41-year-old legs could give no more and he was caught with 8.5 kilometres to go to the finish as Richie Porte led Froome past with Quintana in close contact.

That was the cue for Quintana and Rodriguez to attack, but Froome responded with a huge kick and raced past them, still more than eight kilometres from the summit.

With Porte dropping back, Froome was all alone at the front, Rodriguez and Quintana trying to hang with him on this challenging finale to the general classification fight.

With Contador struggling to keep up behind, Quintana and Rodriguez could sniff podium places and began to work with Froome to up the pace.

The three stuck together until the flamme rouge, one kilometre from the summit, came into view.

Froome roared past the other two, but the acceleration was momentary, and just as quickly Quintana hit back to ride away for victory.

With time in hand, Froome let him go, and Rodriguez also pulled clear to finish 17 seconds behind Quintana and claim third on the podium.

Contador eventually crossed the line dripping in sweat more than two minutes back, losing so much time he was now one minute and 23 seconds off the podium places.

The result also saw the 23-year-old Quintana claim the King of the Mountains' polka-dot jersey to go with the young rider's white jersey he has been wearing for several days now.

Quintana took the KOM category by 11 points from Froome, who just missed out on being the first man since Eddy Merckx in 1970 to win both the yellow and polka-dot jerseys on the same Tour.

Ireland's Dan Martin, still struggling after contracting a virus, finished in 97th today while his cousin Nicolas Roches was 25th.

Dan Martin is 33rd overall after today's stage with Roche back in 41st.

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