Tour de France 2016: Chris Froome wins stage 18 time trial to build commanding lead

Team Sky man now nearly four minutes clear in yellow jersey with two Alpine stages remaining before Paris

Chris Froome (Team Sky) won the stage 18 uphill time trial into Megeve at the 2016 Tour de France to extend his overall lead in the yellow jersey.

Froome, the last man out on the course and riding his Pinarello Bolide time trial bike, where others had opted for a road bike, was unable to topple the times of Prix Bernard Hinault winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and the man in the hot seat, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) at the first time check.

But the race leader gained time before the second time check into Combloux and was quickest to the top of the Cote des Chozeaux before the descent into Megeve to set a race-winning time of 30.43 – the only man to go below the 31-minute mark.

Froome’s second stage win of this year’s race – and seventh of his career at the Tour de France – puts him nearly four minutes clear of second-placed Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), with Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) still third but now at 4’17” to his fellow Brit.

Chris Froome is nearly four minutes clear overall after winning the stage 18 time trial at the 2016 Tour de France (pic: Sirotti)

It wasn’t just the heat and climb causing problems early on with the course technical enough at the finish to see both Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling) go crashing over the barriers on one of the final corners.

Lanterne Rouge Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) was the first rider down the slope, but it was Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who set the first notable mark – the Frenchman reaching the Megeve finish line in 33.06.

Cofidis’ Nicolas Edet was another climbing specialist out early, and set an average speed of 31.27km/h to take the mark to 32.37 but it continued to fall during the early parts of the race.

Portuguese time trial champion Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) and Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) – the latter the first man to break the 32-minute mark – all had short spells in the hot seat.

Spanish champion Ion Izaguirre (Movistar) showed he felt no need to leave anything in reserve by setting a new mark at the Cote de Domancy – where the €5,000 Prix Bernard Hinault was on offer – and at the finish line (31.46), but he too had only a short stint in the hot seat.

Chalet Reynard winner Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) knocked a second off with a steady ride, but it was the performance of Dutch champion Dumoulin which really impressed.

Fastest at the first time check, Dumoulin passed two-minute man Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale) as he crossed the second time check with the best time and he continued to gain time on De Gendt on the climb.

Cresting with a big advantage, Dumoulin tackled the final chicane with ease and put the power down at the finish – coming close to breaking the 31-minute milestone as he put the benchmark on the shelf with a time of 31.04.

Katusha’s GC man Joaquim Rodriguez opted for his TT bike and disc wheel for the flat opening section before swapping to a road bike – a tactic which placed him just 15 seconds behind Dumoulin after the Cote de Domancy and ultimately eighth overall.

As the GC men hit the course, Tejay van Garderen – who lost a huge chunk of time on Finhaut-Emosson – showed he had accepted his hopes of a big finish were over as two-minute man Pierre Rolland passed him before the second time check.

Fabio Aru (Astana) was a much better day, going provisionally second at the second time check behind Dumoulin while Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was even quicker.

Porte put himself in pole position at the top of the first hill to claim the €5,000 bonus prize, but lost 18 seconds on the second to fall behind Dumoulin’s time at the second time check.

Both Aru and Porte finished in 31.16 – Aru going quicker by milliseconds – to put real pressure on their GC rivals.

Tom Dumoulin had set an impressive benchmark, but Froome denied the Dutchman a third stage win with a stunning ride (Pic: Sirotti)

Romain Bardet responded well, however – ceding just a handful of seconds at the finish line though Nairo Quintana was more than 30 seconds behind the two, after a couple of hairy moments on the corners.

Froome, meanwhile, was fifth at the first time check but improved as the climb went on – he was just ten seconds behind Dumoulin at the second time check and then went quickest at the third point.

Fellow Brit Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) successfully defended his white jersey – conceding only a few seconds to Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida), and also just 12 seconds to Quintana in the race for a podium place.

Yates had actually started strongest of the three, but lost time on the latter parts of the course to finish in 32.06 – two seconds quicker than second-placed Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).

Froome’s charge continued, however – the yellow jersey had just 1500m left to ride as Mollema finished – Dumoulin seemingly accepting his fate in the hot seat.

The Team Sky man stopped the clock in 30 minutes and 43 seconds to gain more than a minute on second-placed Mollema, third-placed Yates and fourth-placed Quintana as his charge towards a third yellow jersey continues.

Tour de France 2016: stage 18 (ITT) – result

1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 30.43
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +21”
3) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +33”
4) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing – ST
5) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +42”
6) Thomas de Gendt (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal +1.02
7) Ion Izagirre (ESP) – Movistar +1.03
8) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +1.05
9) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – Lampre-Merida +1.08
10) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +1.10

General classification

1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 77.55.53hrs
2) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek-Segafredo +3.52
3) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-BikeExchange +4.16
4) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +4.37
5) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +4.57
6) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing +5.00
7) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +6.08
8) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +6.37
9) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – Lampre-Merida +7.15
10) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Etixx-QuickStep +7.18

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