Cycling: Geschke wins Tour stage, Froome retains lead

Geschke celebrates as he crosses the finish line. REUTERS

PRA-LOUP, France (AFP) - German Simon Geschke won the first Alpine stage of the Tour de France this year on Wednesday's 17th stage as Chris Froome maintained his overall lead.

It was a fifth victory for Germans at this year's Tour after Andre Greipel's three in sprint finishes and Tony Martin on stage four.

American Andrew Talansky finished the 161km ride from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup in second at 32sec with Colombian Rigoberto Uran third at 1min 01sec.

Froome was 18th and crossed the line just behind his nearest challenger Nairo Quintana but their gap remains constant at 3min 10sec.

Alberto Contador, who had started the day fifth, crashed on the difficult final descent off the Col d'Allos before the climb to the Pra Loup finish.

He lost 2min 17sec to Froome and was overtaken by the Briton's Sky teammate Geraint Thomas, who is now fourth.

Contador remains fifth as American Tejay Van Garderen, who started the day third, quit the race due to illness with 70km left to ride, having been dropped by the peloton.

World champion Michal Kwiatkowski was another to abandon the race.

Also crashing on the final descent was Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who was chasing Geschke at the time but ended up fourth at 1min 36sec.

He was second when crashing but was tentative thereafter and had lost four places by the foot of the descent as remnants of a 28-man breakaway came back at the FDJ leader.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde is up to third at 4min 09sec, although he was distanced by Froome and Quintana in the final 500m and lost seven seconds.

Reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali continued his improvement in this race following his Pyrenean disaster.

He's up to seventh, due to Van Garderen's abandonment, but closing in on sixth-placed Robert Geesink.

The Sicilian lost 15sec to Froome but is now only 25sec behind Geesink with fourth placed Thomas at 1min 30sec.

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