By Thomas Dodd
- Yellow Jersey wearer Chris Froome recovers after crashing to extend overall lead
- Team Sky rider now 4m11 clear with one stage left to survive before Paris
- Romain Bardet wins stage 19 summit finish to Mont Blanc, the first for France in 2016, to move second overall.
MONT BLANC, FRANCE – Chris Froome survived a nasty crash to increase his lead at the head of the overall classification with one meaningful day of racing left in the 2016 Tour de France.
Despite going to ground hard on a descent in atrocious conditions, the team Sky rider was able to cut his losses and ultimately extend his advantage over the rest of the peloton after seeing some of his rivals also suffer.
The Tour’s final summit finish of the year was won by Frenchman Romain Bardet – the first for the home nation – meaning the AG2R rider is now Froome’s closest challenger for the yellow jersey.
Bauke Mollema, who was second going into Stage 19, also crashed before the final climb and lost nearly four minutes to Froome to send the Dutchman tumbling down the order on a day when the main favourites locked out the top ten positions on the road.
Briton Adam Yates also lost his podium place after being dropped on the run up to the finish and the day got worse for the 23-year-old when he received a ten second time penalty for allegedly taking an illegal tow from a teammate.
Joaquin Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde rounded out the top three.
The original 30-man breakaway never had enough of a lead to stay away up the final ascent and it was left for Bardet to master the slippery conditions to perfection and chase down the two remaining survivors Pierre Rolland and Rui Costa.
Cheered on by a raucous home crowd on the slopes of Mont Blanc, Bardet rode away with 8km to go and was never caught, leaving the stress and drama to be shared out among those behind him.
Mollema’s crash instantly put him on the back foot, alongside Richie Porte, who was again the victim of an ill-timed mechanical problem just before the final climb.
But the sight of the yellow jersey scraping along the tarmac road surface was one that had all those in Britain watching on with baited breath.
Battered, bruised and visibly scared along his back Froome re-mounted quickly on teammate Geraint Thomas‘s bike, re-joined the main field and stuck with them right up until the last few hundred metres before losing a handful of seconds in the final sprint for the line.
Mollema’s misfortune, however, means the defending champion’s lead now stands at over four minutes – surely enough to see out one more day in the Alps and allow Froome the honour of riding into Paris in yellow for the third time in his career on Sunday afternoon.
The final real hurdle comes on Saturday, a relatively short but punishing 146.5km ride from Megeve, across two first category climbs and the super category Col de Joux Plane before a tricky descent down to the finish in Morzine.
And Friday’s chaos would have been a big wake-up call to remind everyone at Team Sky that this one isn’t quite over yet.
Stage 19 Result (Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc 146km)
1. Romain Bardet (FRA) AG2R 4hours18minutes08seconds
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) Katusha +23seconds
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar +23
4. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre Merida +23
5. Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar +26
6. Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana +28
7. Dan Martin (IRE) Etixx-QuickStep +28
8. Wouter Poels (HOL) Sky +36
9. Chris Froome (GBR) Sky +36
10. Richie Porte (NZ) BMC Racing +53
13. Adam Yates, Orica, +56seconds
28. Geraint Thomas, Sky +6m33
104. Ian Stannard, Sky +29m56
105. Luke Rowe, Sky +29m56
167. Stephen Cummings, Dimension Data +31m28
175. Daniel McLay, Fortuneo +35m39
Overall Standings (After Stage 19):
1. Chris Froome (GBR) Sky 82h10m37seconds
2. Romain Bardet (FRA) AG2R +4m11
3. Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar +4m27
4. Adam Yates (GBR) Orica +4m46
5. Richie Porte (NZ) BMC Racing +5m17
6. Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana +6m00
7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar +6m20
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida +7m02
9. Dan Martin (IRE) Etixx-QuickStep +7m10
10. Bauke Mollema (HOL) Trek-Segafredo +7m42
15. Geraint Thomas, Sky +28m31
138. Stephen Cummings, Dimension Data +3h46m47
161. Luke Rowe, Sky +4h02m15
167. Ian Stannard, Sky +4h06m00
171. Daniel McLay, Fortuneo +4h20m24
(Abandoned after Stage 16): Mark Cavendish, Dimension Data
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