Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Froome on Course for a Hat-Trick of Tour Titles

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Froome on Course for a Hat-Trick of Tour Titles

Article excerpt

CHRIS Froome is closing in on a third Tour de France title after extending his lead in the yellow jersey, while Russian Ilnur Zakarin won stage 17 to Finhaut-Emosson yesterday.

As Zakarin was celebrating his first Tour stage victory from the day's breakaway, Froome latched on to Richie Porte's late attack to ride clear of his rivals and build a cushion of almost two-and-a-half minutes.

Dutchman Bauke Mollema was the first to be distanced as his second place overall came under attack from Orica-BikeExchange's Adam Yates, but most encouraging for Team Sky will have been the sight of Nairo Quintana being unable to respond as others broke free.

The Movistar rider has usually come good in the third week of Grand Tours and threatened Froome's lead late in last year's Tour, but does not seem to have the legs to rival him and appeared to wave the white flag after dropping to three minutes 27 seconds off the pace in fourth place.

"I still have a lot of years," Quintana said. "I am 26, and there are a lot of people ahead of me who have more experience. I still have a lot of years ahead of me to fight for the 'yellow jersey dream'.

"I didn't have a great (day) today. I expected more because I had good sensations, but my body didn't feel good in the end. I did the best I could."

With this being Colombian National Day, the stage had been set for Quintana to show his colours, but he was visibly struggling as Froome and Porte rode away.

"It's been a very difficult Tour for Nairo," Froome said. "He's still a great rival and a big challenger for me but he lost more time today. I think for him to re-enter into the game again he's going to have to do a real good time trial tomorrow."

At the end of this 184.5km stage from Berne, Froome now leads Trek-Segafredo's Mollema by two minutes and 27 seconds after the Dutchman gave up 40 seconds on the climb to the Emosson Dam.

Third-placed Yates has seen his chances of a podium finish in Paris enhanced after the 23-year-old moved to within 26 seconds of Mollema and extended his advantage over Quintana to 34 seconds. …

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