Froome nails rivals to move closer to third Tour title
By Julien Pretot
FINHAUT-EMOSSON, Switzerland (Reuters) - Britain's Chris Froome took another big step toward a third Tour de France title when he dropped his main rivals in the finale of the 17th stage, a 184-km mountain trek won by Russian Ilnur Zakarin on Wednesday.
Froome (Team Sky) attacked inside the final two km in the last ascent, a punishing 10.4-km climb at an average gradient of 8.4 percent and Dutchman Bauke Mollema, second overall, as well as last year's runner-up Nairo Quintana, could not follow.
The Briton finished on the wheel of former team mate Richie Porte (BMC), the Australian emerging as a potential podium finisher in Paris.
Froome, who stayed behind Porte in the final straight, extended his lead over Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) to 2:27 and compatriot Adam Yates (Orica) to 2:53.
"There was no real need to get on the front tactically, obviously it was the first day of a four-day block, tomorrow is going to be critical," said Froome, referring to Thursday's 18th stage, a brutal 17-km uphill time trial from Sallanches to Megeve.
Colombian Quintana (Movistar), who has been lacking his usual stamina in the long climbs, is fourth, 3:27 off the pace after losing 28 seconds to Froome when he was expected to attack.
The decisive move was made by Porte, who jumped away from the favorites' group about 2km from the line, with Froome the only rider able to follow him thanks to a short but brutal acceleration.
Porte climbed from seventh to sixth overall, 4:27 off the pace, but his recent form suggests he will continue to move up the GC (general classification), taking sole leadership at BMC after team mate Tejay van Garderen cracked in the penultimate climb of a grueling day in the Swiss Alps. Continued...