Froome Takes 2013 Tour de France's Last Time Trial
Chris Froome (Sky) has won Stage 17 of the Tour de France. The Briton eked out a victory on the 32-km mountain time trial course from Embrun to Chorges, pipping Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) to win in 51:33. Contador was 0:09 slower than Froome, and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) took third at 0:10. Froome slightly extended his overall lead.
Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) set the early standard. The Dutch time trial champion posted a 54:02, which remained the standard for two hours. Eventually, Jon Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bettered Westra’s time with a 53:58.
The rain began to fall as the last 40 riders started. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) posted a 53:24 to take the lead. Given the conditions, his time looked as if it could be a winner.
Van Garderen led for an hour. Climbers such as Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard), and Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Leopard) could not better the American’s time, although Monfort came within 0:26 of the BMC man. Van Garderen’s time at the top of the leader board ended when Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) powered across the finish in 52:03.
Rodriguez eclipsed Valverde with a 51:43, only to see Contador better his time by 0:01. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) and Froome were still on the course, however. The Dutchman slid out on a right turn and crashed into the barriers but did not fall. He lost enough time during his ride to drop from second to fourth overall.
Froome went through the first checkpoint 0:02 behind Contador. He was 0:11 behind the Spaniard at the second checkpoint, but the Briton gained time on the descent to the finish to win the day.
Froome surprised himself with his victory. “I couldn’t believe it when I got over the line and saw I had the fastest time,” the Sky man said. “I went into today thinking I was going to try and limit my losses - thinking about the days to come.
“To go through the finish line with the fastest time – I didn’t see that coming.
“I really didn’t think the weather was going in my direction. I had a bit of rain on the second descent. Luckily the first one had dried up by the time I got there so I was really happy with that.”
A change from his road bike to his time trial bike before the descent might have made the difference in the race.
“That could very well have been the difference,” Froome said. “When I rode the route this morning, I felt I needed the bigger gearing for the last descent. The run-in was really fast so I made sure I had bigger gears on that second bike to be able to push on coming into the final.”
In the overall, Froome leads Contador by 4:34 and Contador’s teammate Roman Kreuziger by 4:51. Stage 18 will be a stern test for the Sky man. The 168-km ride from Gap to Alpe d’Huez will feature two ascents of the fabled hors categorie climb. Look for Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, Movistar, and Belkin to challenge Froome and Sky in an effort to isolate the Briton as they did in Stage 8. Will the challengers succeed? If they succeed, will they take time out of Froome? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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