By winning the 17-kilometer Mountain Time Trial of the 18th stage, Team-Sky’s two-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome added almost 90 seconds to his overall GC lead over his nearest rival. At second place, Dutchman Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segafredo is nearly 4 minutes adrift of the defending champion while young rider and another Briton Adam Yates is placed third, more than 4 minutes behind. Colombian Nairo Quintanna still occupies the fourth spot. Now just two mountain stages and the final flat stretch between Chantilly and Paris remain in the competition. In the three-week long event, Froome has obtained a huge buffer going into the last phase and barring unforeseen circumstances, the Brit should take his second consecutive Tour del France title and third overall.
Defending champion Chris Froome of Great Britain is now ever so close to another deserved victory in the prestigious Tour de France. He took a big step forward by winning the 17 km long Mountain Time trial in Stage-18 from Gare de Sallanches to Megeve via Combloux, a steep climb of 713 meters in which 179 riders were still in the competition. The last phase was the technical descent to Megeve. Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin of Team Giant-Alpecin had won the first time-trial in Stage-13 and he was the one, who set the pace once again. Since Dumoulin had started about 2 hours earlier to Froome, his trial was over when Froome was still far away from his time-trial start. This was a vital mountainous stage, which involved some steep uphill climbs apart from a few flat stretches and descent to Megeve. Therefore, a major talking point before the stage start was the type of equipment that the riders would choose. Most riders opted for aero-attachments to their road-bikes and Froome and Dumoulin did likewise. However unlike Dumoulin, Froome selected a disc-wheel on the back side and a tri-spoke for the front.
When Froome finally started at 3.59 PM, he knew Dumoulin had clocked 31 minutes 4 seconds and was sitting comfortably in the winner’s chair to watch the race unfold on television. A few minutes earlier, Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema, Orica-GreenEdge’s Adam Yates and Movistar Team’s Nairo Quintanna had also set off as per the times assigned to them. At the first time-check after 6.5 kilometers, Froome was 23 seconds behind Dumoulin but he narrowed the margin to 10 seconds on the second time-check at 10 kilometers. Over the next 3½ kilometers, when the third time-check came, Froome had bettered Dumpulin’s time by 13 seconds and as he went into the descent towards Megeve, he picked up a few more seconds to beat the Dutch rider by 21 seconds by clocking 30 minutes 43 seconds. Froome’s victory in the second time-trial takes him 3 minutes 52 seconds clear of second-placed Bauke Mollema. Froome’s young compatriot from Orica-BikeExchange team Adam Yates rode a creditable race to pick up a few precious seconds but he is still 24 seconds adrift of Mollema on third place. Colombia’s Nairo Quintanna was seen as Froome’s biggest challenger on this year’s Tour de France but the Movistar Team rider is still at fourth place, 4 minutes 37 seconds behind Froome.
The Briton looks unstoppable with hardly anything left in the competition. On Friday, the riders will start from Albertville for a 146 kilometer mountain run to Saint Gervais Mont Blanc before racing on another mountain stretch on Saturday, a 146.5 kilometer run between Megeve and Morzine. The grand finale comes up on Sunday July 24, when the 2016 Tour de France will conclude after the riders finish the 113 kilometer flat run from Chantilly to Paris. There is plenty of enthusiasm among cycling fans and a large gathering is expected at Champs-Elysees to watch the riders arrive around 6pm on Sunday.
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