Tour de France 2016: Ilnur Zakarin wins stage 17 as Chris Froome extends lead
Team Sky man stretches advantage to more than two minutes after late attack on Finhaut-Emosson climb
Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) won stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France on Finhaut-Emosson as Chris Froome (Team Sky) extended his overall advantage.
Zakarin attacked from the day’s break, fending off the challenge of stage 15 winner Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) and King of the Mountains leader Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) to bag his first Tour de France stage win.
Froome followed an attack from former team-mate Richie Porte (BMC Racing) in the GC group, meanwhile, with his other rivals for the yellow jersey shelled out the back as he stretched his overall lead to more than two minutes.
After a day off, it didn’t take long for the drama to resume – Gorka Izaguirre, a key domestique in the mountains for Movistar, suffering a suspected fractured clavicle in an early spill and abandoning the race.
The pace was high from the off – an average speed in excess of 50km/h for the first hour – and as a result it took some time for a break to stick before a large move finally went clear.
Current King of the Mountains leader Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) was present, alongside green jersey and team-mate Peter Sagan.
Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale), stage 15 winner Jarlinson Pantanao (IAM Cycling), Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) were other notable riders in the group.
Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) put in a big dig to bridge across, meanwhile, as Movistar and Astana joined Team Sky in setting the pace on the climbs in the peloton.
Far from dropping their rivals, however, both teams had shelled riders by the time reached the Col de la Forclaz as Team Sky kept men around race leader Chris Froome.
In the breakaway, Sagan set a fast pace as his team-mate Majka started racking up more mountain points before the world champion crossed the intermediate sprint in first place – a move which ensures he now carries an officially unassailable lead in the points classification.
The break numbered 14 at that point but Sagan sat up shortly afterwards as the attacking started off the front – Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Gallopin earning a short-lived gap.
Over the top of the Col de la Forclaz, Majka moved forward to add ten more points to his mountains tally, before he and Pantano attacked on the descent.
In the bunch, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) was the first big-name rider dropped from the GC group, while Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was also spat out the back.
Vincenzo Nibali set the pace for Astana team-mate Fabio Aru, but Froome tucked in behind, still boasting plenty of Team Sky team-mates for company in the 20-strong group.
Majka and Pantano, who contested stage 15 from the breakaway, were 25 seconds clear as they reached Finhaut-Emosson, prompting Zakarin – who had also been in contention for the stage 15 win at one point – to bridge across.
Panatano and Zakarin’s explosive efforts on the climbs put paid to Majka’s chances, however, before the Russian also distanced the Colombian with another powerful kick.
In the GC group, Nibali continued to set the pace with Aru at third wheel, while Team Sky lined out for Froome just behind as the group with second-placed Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) on his wheel.
Nibali’s efforts finally came to an end with eight kilometres remaining while white jersey Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) took to cooling his thighs with water from his bidon.
Up front, Zakarin stretched his advantage over Pantano to more than 20 seconds – the peloton, at nine minutes further back, was little threat as far as the stage win went.
Diego Rosa took over the pace-setting for Astana, before he too ground to a halt, prompting Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to put a couple of big digs in off the front.
Both times, Wout Poels and Sergio Henao shut the move down for Froome, with the yellow jersey barely having to break stride as Nairo Quintana stayed glued to his wheel.
Valverde’s efforts saw him spat out the back, as Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) also tried what proved to be a short-lived attack off the front.
At the very front of the race, Zakarin rolled under the flamme rouge alone and continued to fight against the punishing gradient – his efforts so great he struggled to get his jersey zipped up.
Nothing could stop him celebrating the stage win, however, redemption after crashing out of the Giro d’Italia on the final weekend earlier this year.
Pantano held on for second, ahead of Majka – who extends his lead in the mountains classification – before attention turned back to the GC group.
Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was the man who tried a late attack, with Quintana trying but failing to bridge across as more riders lost contact at the back – Martin and Mollema among them.
Froome was the man to eventually bridge across to Porte – Quintana again unable to respond as the Team Sky man latched on to his former team-mate’s wheel under the flamme rouge.
Quintana continued to go backwards, meanwhile, with Yates kicking hard to gain a few seconds in the white jersey and in third place overall.
Froome now leads by 2’27” with four stages remaining of this year’s race, starting with the stage 17 mountain time trial for which Froome will wear yellow for the 40th time in his Tour career.
Tour de France 2016: stage 17 – result
1) Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) – Katusha – 4.36.33hrs
2) Jarlinson Pantano (COL) – IAM Cycling +55”
3) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff +1.26
4) Kristijan Durasek (CRO) – Lampre-Merida +1.32
5) Brice Feillu (FRA) – Fortuneo-Vital Concept +2.33
6) Thomas Voeckler (FRA) – Direct Energie +2.46
7) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.50
8) Stef Clement (NED) – IAM Cycling +2.57
9) Steve Morabito (SUI) – FDJ +4.38
10) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing +7.59
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky –77.25.10hrs
2) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek-Segafredo +2.27
3) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-BikeExchange +2.53
4) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.27
5) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +4.15
6) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing +4.27
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +5.19
8) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +5.35
9) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Etixx-QuickStep +5.50
10) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – Lampre-Merida +6.07
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