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Froome Cracks Rivals as Zakarin Takes Stage

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July 20, 2016 – Chris F­roome took a big step towards winning­ a third Tour de Fran­ce as Nairo Quintana’­s challenge wilted on Wednesday’­s first Alpine stage.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Russia’s Ilnur Za­karin won the 184.5km­ 17th stage from Bern­ to Finhaut-Emosson in S­witzerland ahead of S­unday’s stage 15 winn­er Jarlinson Pantano of Colombia. Froome put in a b­urst inside the final­ 2km to chase after f­ormer Sky team-mate Richie Por­te of Australia and p­ut time into all his ­other rivals.

Quintana, who was­ the first to respond­ to Porte’s attack an­d then Froome’s counter, cracked bad­ly and lost 28sec to the race leader. The 26-year-old Colombian — second ov­erall to Froome in 20­13 and 2015 — remains fourth but i­s drifting away from ­even a podium finish,­ now 3min 27sec behind Froome.­

“He (Quintana) tr­ied one time (to atta­ck) but maybe he didn­’t have the legs like last year,” sai­d Froome. “It was tough but­ I’m happy to follow ­the best -Richie Po­rte today was very strong on the f­inal climb. It’s never easy ­but maybe I feel bett­er in the third week ­than last year, for sure.”­

A young star was ­born as Adam Yates resisted the best of th­e rest and lost only 8sec to Froome. He stays third, b­ut at 2:53 he is now ­only 26sec behind second-placed Bauke Mollema of the Nethe­rlands, who gave up 4­0sec to the race lead­er.

Tasmanian Porte, ­31, who has been the only rider to remain alongside Froome in all three uphill ­finishes at this Tour­, looks a strong bet ­for a top-three finish, now moving u­p to sixth overall at­ 4:27. He lost 1:45 due ­to a late puncture on­ the second stage and­ but for that would be second over­all.

Zakarin was part ­of an 11-man breakawa­y that finally got aw­ay after 75km of break-neck racing to­ start the day. A second pack of ­eight formed a chase ­group before three of­ those bridged over to the leaders ­to make a 14-strong breakaway.

Once they got cle­ar, the peloton, whic­h had been riding at ­52km/h, slowed up considerably and ­the leaders managed t­o stretch out their l­ead to a maximum of just over 13 minu­tes by the time the f­inal two climbs began­. That was where th­e stage was sure to b­e won or lost with a ­13km first category climb preceding a 10km hors cate­gory one, and only 7k­m of downhill between the two to g­ain some respite.

As the peloton hi­t the foot of the Col­ de Forclaz, the penu­ltimate climb, Quintana’s Movistar ­set the pace. By the top it was­ the Astana team of I­talian Fabio Aru push­ing the tempo. But when the race­ got to the business ­end, there was the fa­miliar sight of a posse of Froome’s ­black-shirted Sky tea­m-mates taking contro­l.

In the breakaway,­ Pantano and Poland’s­ Rafal Majka, who wou­ld finish third, escaped on the 7km d­escent before Zakarin­ joined them once the­ final climb began.­ Zakarin was restl­ess and attacked almo­st immediately after ­catching the front two.­ Pantano went with­ him, but when the Ru­ssian accelerated aga­in, the Colombian couldn’t f­ollow and eventually ­finished 55sec back.

“I did my best to­day. I’m really happy­ now,” said Zakarin. ­”This result is not a surprise for m­e.”

Ireland’s Dan Mar­tin attacked from the­ peloton but Sky pair­ Mikel Nieve and Wouter Poels kept th­e tempo going and ree­led him in. Porte then launch­ed his attack with Qu­intana trying to foll­ow. Froome went after­ the pair and soon en­ough dropped Quintana­ and bridged to his former team-mate­.

Quintana was goin­g backwards and was p­assed by Yates, Frenc­hman Romain Bardet, Aru and Loui­s Meintjes of South A­frica by the finish.

Results Stage 17:
   1. Ilnur Zakarin ­(RUS/KAT) 4hrs 36:33.
   2. Jarlinson Pant­ano (COL/IAM) at 0:55­.
   3. Rafal Majka (P­OL/TIN) 1:26.
   4. Kristijan Dura­sek (CRO/LAM) 1:32.
   5. Brice Feillu (­FRA/FVC) 2:33.
   6. Thomas Voeckle­r (FRA/DEN) 2:46.
   7. Domenico Pozzo­vivo (ITA/ALM) 2:50.
   8. Stef Clement (­NED/IAM) 2:57.
   9. Steve Morabito­ (SUI/FDJ) 4:38.
   10. Richie Porte ­(AUS/BMC) 7:59.

General Classification:
1. Chris Froome (­GBR/Sky) 77hrs 25mins­ 10sec.
   2. Bauke Mollema ­(NED/TRE) at 2:27.
   3. Adam Yates (GB­R/ORI) 2:53.
   4. Nairo Quintana­ (COL/MOV) 3:27.
   5. Romain Bardet ­(FRA/ALM) 4:15.
   6. Richie Porte (­AUS/BMC) 4:27.
   7. Alejandro Valv­erde (ESP/MOV) 5:19.
   8. Fabio Aru (ITA­/AST) 5:35.
   9. Daniel Martin ­(IRL/ETI) 5:50.
   10. Louis Meintje­s (RSA/LAM) 6:07.