Thursday 23 November 2017

Froome increases lead despite time penalty

Team Sky rider Christopher Froome of Britain cycles to win the 32km individual time-trial seventeenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Embrun to Chorges July 17, 2013
Team Sky rider Christopher Froome of Britain cycles to win the 32km individual time-trial seventeenth stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Embrun to Chorges July 17, 2013

Ian Chadband

A crazy, mad, wonderful day with its unique double ascent of L'Alpe-d'Huez must have left Chris Froome with bizarre, dizzying feelings to match. He got docked time, he was broken, hungry and suffering on the slopes for the first time and yet still ended up proclaiming his delight at increasing his overall lead in the Tour de France. Quite surreal.

Looking weary and vulnerable, the leader was docked 20 seconds of his 57-second gain over his main rival Alberto Contador by race commissaires after he and his inspirational chief lieutenant Richie Porte tried to pull a fast one with an illegal feed in the last few miles of the second climb.

The pair's attempt to circumvent the rule which does not allow any rider to personally take food from the support car within the last three and a half miles did not impress the jury.

With less than three miles remaining and feeling ever more sluggish, Froome sent his sidekick to drop back to the car and bring him back an energy gel because, technically then, Porte would be the guilty one.

Good try but no banana. Instead, the commissaires docked them both 20 seconds and £140 each. Froome may find it the best £140 he has ever forked out because he was flailing badly as, up ahead, two podium contenders, Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez, were stretching their lead over him to over 45 seconds.

The key question now is how Froome responds today in what he feels is "possibly the hardest stage of the Tour", an brutal follow-up of 127 miles, featuring two hors category climbs. He now leads Contador by five minutes and 11 seconds.

Christophe Riblon took a tumble after missing a corner and then madly pursued the gradually fading Tejay Van Garderen for countless miles. It could have not felt more cruel as the 32-year-old overhauled him with just under one and a half miles left.

Ireland's Dan Martin, meanwhile, finished 76th on the stage and lies 19th overall, 34mins 22secs behind Froome (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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