Froome in control as Contador drifts, Van Garderen out
By Julien Pretot
PRA LOUP, France (Reuters) - Chris Froome emerged unscathed from a treacherous 17th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, retaining his lead while Alberto Contador lost a lot of ground and Tejay van Garderen abandoned the race.
American Van Garderen, who was third overall at the start of the 161-km trek from Digne les Bains, pulled out because of sickness with the day's laurels going to German Simon Geschke after a brave solo raid.
"It's the most beautiful day of my life as a professional rider, it's surreal," said Geschke.
Spaniard Contador's hopes of achieving a rare Giro d'Italia/Tour double suffered another major knock when he lost touch with the group of top guns after crashing in the dangerous descent from the col d'Allos.
The Tinkoff-Saxo rider lost over two minutes on Froome and Colombian Nairo Quintana, who finished together after the final ascent to Pra Loup, a 6.2-km climb at an average gradient of 6.5 percent.
Froome summed up the stage by saying: "It was a crazy day."
Froome leads Quintana, who attacked him several times in the climbs, by three minutes and 10 seconds and his Movistar team mate Alejandro Valverde of Spain by 4:09.
Contador is now fifth overall 6:40 off the pace, six seconds behind Froome's compatriot and team mate Geraint Thomas. Continued...