Geschke wins, Froome in control as Contador drifts

Pra Loup, July 22

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. 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 a 6.2-km climb at an average gradient of 6.5 per cent.

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. In 1975, Frenchman Bernard Thevenet snatched the yellow jersey from the great Eddy Merckx in a stage finishing in Pra Loup, but Froome was not to be overthrown on Wednesday. The Briton showed fine descending skills and his usual power in the climbs to stay in control on another searing hot day on the Tour. Peter Sagan was again in the day’s breakaway as part of a group of 28 that also featured France’s Thibaut Pinot and American Andrew Talansky.