Tour de France: Tour dwindling to parisian end

Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, riding to victory in the 18th stage of Tour de France between Sallanches and Megeve in the French Alps. He extended his lead over Bauke Mollema in the overall standings to 3min 52sec.
Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, riding to victory in the 18th stage of Tour de France between Sallanches and Megeve in the French Alps. He extended his lead over Bauke Mollema in the overall standings to 3min 52sec.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Froome's Stage 18 win adds to dominance that has left race devoid of excitement

FINHAUT-EMOSSON (Switzerland) • French sports newspaper L'Equipe ran a headline before Wednesday's 17th stage of the Tour de France, saying: "At last the Alps."

The inference was that the Alps would finally kick some life into a cycling race that was becoming increasingly predictable and uneventful.

As it happened, the Alps brought nothing new or exciting to the three-week race which seems to be as good as decided - Britain's Chris Froome has a third Tour crown all but wrapped up.

His compatriot Adam Yates said as much after the 184.5km stage through the Swiss Alps.

"Obviously Froome is pretty strong. In my opinion, he'll be on the top spot of the podium in Paris," said the 23-year-old.

For the rider lying third overall at 2min 53sec behind to say that with three tough Alpine stages to come, spoke volumes about how Froome and his Sky team have strangled the life out of this year's race.

Froome boasted before the Grand Boucle began that Sky had cobbled together their "strongest Tour team yet".

And it proved to be anything but bravado, even his assertions that many of his team-mates would be team leaders elsewhere.

When the group of favourites reached Wednesday's final climb, Froome was surrounded by five team-mates, hardly anyone else had more than one, and most of them not even that.

Nairo Quintana, who remains in almost everyone's mind the Briton's biggest rival, had started falling away on Wednesday.

But the general feeling is that Froome still has time to gain on his rivals rather than lose.

Quintana initially suggested that he had not given up hope, despite admitting it "wasn't a good day".

"I need to recover and get my body back to its natural state, as happened in other races. Anything can happen between here and Paris," he said defiantly, before suggesting his day would have to come some other time.

"I have a long time left. I'm 26 and I have very experienced people behind me. I have a lot of time left to keep fighting."

Having seemingly been most worried about Quintana until now, Froome did suggest he thought that boat had sailed.

"It's been a difficult Tour for Nairo. Of course he's still a great rival and a big challenger for me, but he lost more time (on Wednesday). "

But he acknowledges the Colombian could shine if he rediscovers his legs.

Yesterday Froome consolidated his lead atop the standings by winning the 18th stage in a time of 30min 43sec. He came in 21sec ahead of Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.

The smart money is on Froome winning it and leaving his rivals looking at each other and a fight for the other two podium spots.

This is not a Tour that will live long in the memory, unless your name is Chris Froome.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline 'Tour dwindling to parisian end'. Print Edition | Subscribe