Froome in control as Contador drifts, Van Garderen out

Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:56pm EDT
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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...

Team Sky rider Chris Froome of Britain wears the race leader's yellow jersey on the podium after the 161-km (100 miles) 17th stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup in the French Alps mountains, France, July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini