Froome moves closer to third Tour de France title

Thu Jul 21, 2016 1:24pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

MEGEVE, France (Reuters) - Britain's Chris Froome edged nearer retaining his Tour de France title when he won the 18th stage, a 17-km mountain time trial, to extend his overall lead to almost four minutes on Thursday.

The Team Sky rider, aiming to become the first to retain the title since Miguel Indurain in 1995, clocked a best time of 30 minutes 43 seconds on a course featuring the punishing Cote de Domancy, a 2.5-km climb at an average gradient of 9.4 percent.

He beat time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin by 21 seconds and Italian Fabio Aru by 33 seconds.

"I really didn't expect to beat Tom today, pacing was key. I started off steady and really controlled that first part then gave it everything I had," said Froome.

"I've got a great advantage now."

Five-times Tour champion Eddy Merckx said the Briton already had the Tour sewn up.

"I can't see any reason why he could not keep the yellow until Paris," the Belgian said. "His rivals are just sitting in his team mates' wheels. Nobody can beat him at this Tour."

Dutchman Bauke Mollema, who started the day 2:27 behind Froome in the general classification, lost 1:25 and trails the defending champion by a massive 3:52 going into two final stages in the Alps before Sunday's parade to the Champs Elysees.   Continued...

Team Sky rider Chris Froome of Britain (L), race leader's yellow jersey, grimaces as he cycles with team-mate Team Sky rider Richie Porte of Australia (R) during the 110.5-km (68.6 miles) 20th stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race from Modane to Alpe d'Huez in the French Alps mountains, France, July 25, 2015.       REUTERS/Eric Gaillard