Thursday 22 March 2018

Quintana fails to topple Froome

Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome before the final battle
Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome before the final battle

Matt McGeehan

Chris Froome effectively sealed a second Tour de France title despite Nairo Quintana's nerve-shredding ascent of Alpe-d'Huez.

Froome, the 2013 champion, led nearest rival Quintana (Movistar) by two minutes 38 seconds entering the 110.5-kilometres 20th stage from Modane Valfrejus.

The Team Sky leader's advantage was cut dramatically by the Colombian climber on the 13.8km finishing ascent and its 21 hairpin bends.

But Quintana ran out of road ahead of today's ceremonial finish in Paris, where Froome will stand atop the podium for a second time.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) won the stage, with Quintana second, 18 seconds behind and Froome one minute 38 seconds adrift of the Frenchman in fourth.

The Briton leads Quintana by 1min 12secs - a distance which is set to be his victory margin as today's stage on the Champs-Elysees is contested by the sprinters.

It was a hard fought title for Froome, who has been subject to innuendo and interrogations in the 102nd Tour after a victory based on a dominant display on stage 10 to La Pierre-Saint-Martin in the Pyrenees.

The 30-year-old had endured similar scrutiny in winning the 100th Tour and first since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his record seven titles.

The performance-enhancing drug use of Armstrong and his contemporaries in the EPO era created a climate of suspicion around cycling, but Froome insists he races clean and there is no evidence to the contrary.

Froome was doused in urine, spat at and "attacked from every angle" on and off the bike.

Yesterday's stage was the final chance for his rivals to dethrone him and Quintana, second to Froome in 2013, tried to isolate the Briton.

Quintana followed a surge by his team-mate Alejandro Valverde with around 10km to go and cut Froome's advantage with every revolution as the Briton opted to stay with team-mates Woet Poels and Richie Porte.

Froome's gamble paid off as Quintana's phenomenal burst failed to see him overtake the Briton in the overall rankings.

Froome also did enough to win the King of the Mountains classification on the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the polka dot jersey.

Quintana trimmed Froome's advantage from 3:10 to 2:38 after the third of four Alpine stages to La Toussuire on Friday before vowing to attack earlier en route to Alpe-d'Huez.

He was true to his word, following an attack by team-mate Valverde 5km from the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer.

Quintana bridged to his team-mate and Richie Porte was the last of Froome's team-mates to fall off the pace, leaving Froome to chase himself.

Froome followed a surge by defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and the pair caught Quintana and Valverde on the long descent, which flattened out in the valley approaching Alpe-d'Huez.

Porte, Poels and Geraint Thomas also rejoined the main group, providing Froome with some support on the approach to the 13.8km concluding climb.

Nibali had to change his bike on the fast approach to the final climb, where Quintana's first attempt to make an early break was foiled by Porte.

When Quintana surged again, Poels followed and passed the Colombian - in effect telling him the attack was not good enough.

Valverde attacked again with around 10km to go and Quintana followed.

This time no Team Sky rider could follow. Poels led Porte and Froome on his wheel as the Team Sky trio rode tempo.

Quintana then teamed up with Winner Anacona, who fell back from the initial break to support his leader.

Valverde dropped back to sit on Froome's wheel and Quintana attacked himself with around 5km to go and Pinot 50secs ahead, increasing his advantage over the Team Sky leader to one minute.

With three kilometres to go, Quintana reeled in Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), who was chasing lone leader Pinot.

But Quintana's daring break was not enough as Pinot took the stage and Froome the Tour.

Sunday Indo Sport

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