Tour de France 2017: Chris Froome extends lead, Primoz Roglic wins stage

Primoz Roglic celebrates winning stage 17

Former ski jumper Roglic held his form brilliantly during a lengthy descent into the finish at Serre-Chevalier

Britain’s Chris Froome extended his lead in the Tour de France to 27 seconds at the end of a brilliant stage 17 won by Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic.

Froome was third in a thrilling mountain stage during which Fabio Aru slipped from second to fourth overall.

Marcel Kittel, who led the green jersey contest, was forced to retire from the race after crashing early in the stage.

There are four stages remaining, with a potentially crucial summit finish in Izoard on Thursday.

Froome had lost time on the drag up to the mountain-top finish in Peyragudes on stage 12, and had the yellow jersey taken off him by Aru.

But the Team Sky leader, aiming for his fourth Tour victory and third in succession, reclaimed it on an uphill sprint to Rodez on stage 14.

Should any of his rivals want to ride into Paris on Sunday in the yellow jersey, they need to attack on the punishing slopes up to Izoard and hope Froome cracks, because he is expected to take time off them during Saturday’s time trial in Marseille.

In-form Colombian Rigoberto Uran and French favourite Romain Bardet are second and third in the standings – both 27 seconds behind the leader.

A satisfying bunch of seconds for Froome

Just 29 seconds separated the top four in the general classification as the riders rolled out of La Mure for the 183km stage that comprised two hors categorie climbs up Croix de Fer and the Galibier, plus the category one Telegraphe.

It was a potentially dangerous day for Froome, but after numerous breakaways and attacks it was the 32-year-old who led a group of five riders in pursuit of Roglic.

The Slovenian – a former junior world ski jumping champion – had launched off the front of the remnants of a breakaway and powered over the Galibier, at 2,642m the highest point of this year’s race and the final climb of the stage.

He then showed great skill and nerve during the long downhill drag to Serre-Chevalier to maintain his 90-second lead.

Behind him, the group led by Froome – which included fellow GC contenders Bardet and Uran – distanced some of their rivals.

The isolated Aru was the biggest casualty, but Ireland’s Dan Martin and Britain’s Simon Yates also lost time, although the latter remains in the white jersey as the race’s best young rider.

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Frome, Bardet, Uran – all battling for seconds, all battling for the line

Kittel crash ends Tour

There was drama early in Wednesday’s stage when German sprinter Kittel, the winner of five stages this year, abandoned after struggling to the top of the Croix de Fer.

Kittel, who has won 14 Tour stages overall, had struggled on Tuesday as Sunweb’s Michael Matthews closed the gap in the green jersey competition.

When Matthews won the intermediate sprint early in Wednesday’s stage, a lead that at one time had been in triple figures was now down to just nine points.

By that stage Kittel was already well off the pace again, a crash after 20km leaving him cut and bruised.

But it was nonetheless something of a surprise when he abandoned, in the process handing Australian Matthews a virtually unassailable advantage over German Andre Greipel.

British sprinter Dan McLay, who was last in the overall classification, later joined the list of abandonments, while Frenchman Thibaut Pinot also failed to finish.

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Kittel was battered and bruised after a crash 20km into the stage

A decisive stage?

Greg LeMond – a three-time winner of the Tour – predicted on Eurosport before Wednesday’s stage that it would be Thursday’s climb up to Izoard, and not the slog over the Galibier, that could have a serious impact on the battle for the yellow jersey.

“It will come down to Izoard, it will be the first big battle for climbers to win the Tour,” said the American.

Thursday’s stage does indeed have a steep summit finish at the top of the Izoard – 14.1km at an average gradient of 7.3% – and could make for thrilling viewing.

Before the men’s stage, though, there is a women’s race – La Course by Le Tour, that runs 67.5km from Briancon to Izoard.

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Stage 17 result:

1. Primoz Roglic (Slo/LottoNL-Jumbo) 5hrs 7mins 41secs

2. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +1min 13secs

3. Chris Froome (GB/ Team Sky) Same time

4. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale)

5. Warren Barguil (Fra/Team Sunweb)

6. Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +1min 16secs

7. Daniel Martin (Ire/Quick-Step Floors) +1min 43secs

8. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +1min 44secs

9. Louis Meintjes (SA/UAE Team Emirates) Same time

10. Fabio Aru (Italy/Astana)

General classification after stage 17:

1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 73hrs 27mins 26secs

2. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +27secs

3. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) Same time

4. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +53secs

5. Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +1min 24secs

6. Daniel Martin (Ire/Quick-Step Floors) +2mins 37secs

7. Simon Yates (GB/Orica-Scott) +4mins 07secs

8. Louis Meintjes (SA/UAE Team Emirates) +6mins 35secs

9. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek-Segafredo) +7mins 45secs

10. Warren Barguil (Fra/Team Sunweb) +8mins 52secs

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/40656045

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