Time trial: (noun) a test of a competitor’s individual speed over a set distance
Chris Froome powered his way up the Côte de Domancy, dominating the field as he took his second Tour de France stage win and kept his iron grip on the yellow jersey (or skinsuit). The Team Sky rider also took time out of his GC rivals, Mollema and Quintana. Fabian Cancellara was a non-starter for his Olympic focus and Shane Archbold was forced to retire after a crash caused him a broken pelvis from stage 17.
“I really didn’t expect to beat Tom today” – Chris Froome
First rider on the course was lanterne rouge holder Sam Bennett (Bora) for being last in the GC standings, with the yellow skinsuit wearer Froome last to set off from the start ramp. The Team Sky leader paced himself towards the first 6.5km checkpoint, marking himself 23 seconds down from Dumoulin. Even at this early point in the stage it looked as if Froome was conserving energy for the following two mountain stages despite placing virtual second for the stage results. He then proceeded to gain speed with every kilometre, from being 10 seconds behind Dumoulin at the 10km checkpoint to then gaining a 9 second lead ahead at the 13.5km mark. Expertly tackling the twists and turns in the last kilometre, avoiding the barriers unlike Oliver Naesen (IAM) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ), he powered for the line and beat Dumoulin by 21 seconds.
Throughout the day the lead undoubtedly changed hands numerous times with the men higher up the GC ranking coming in later on in the day. Oliveria (Movistar), Sicard (Direct Energie) and Coppel (IAM) were all fastest before the next overtook them, and unfortunately for Thomas De Gendt he was knocked down from first to second in a matter of 10 minutes when Tom Dumoulin crossed the line, beating his time by 41 seconds.
“I think Froome in top shape will beat my time” Dumoulin says just a few minutes after stepping off his bike, being made to wait patiently for an hour and a half before Froome would cross the line. The stage they were both contesting the win for was sharp from the beginning, the steepest section coming just 3km from the start line and lasting 2.5km. The quickest rider up this will win the one-off Bernard Hinault Prize as this is his last Tour involving podium duties. At the end of the stage, it went to Richie Porte. The course also had 4 checkpoints to compare rider times. The first was the Côte de Domancy at 6.5km, the second was Combloux at 10km, the next was Les Berthekets at 13.5km and the last was the finish line of the Megeve at 17km.
The BMC rider scaled the climb 9 seconds quicker than Dumoulin, earning him a trophy and €5,000. He also had an incredibly fast stage, challenging Dumoulin for the win (before Froome had crossed the line). Initially down on Dumoulin yet creeping up on him at the second checkpoint, Porte had managed to take 9 seconds off him before then losing 18. He battled on to the end, catching Dumoulin’s time yet in the end was 12 seconds behind him.
Team Sky teammate and world TT champion Kiryienka finished 5 minutes behind stage winner Froome, likely to be conserving his energy for the remaining two mountain stages. Former champion Tony Martin finished 3m32 behind. Podium place contenders Quintana and Yates finished 1m10 and 1m23 down respectively while Mollema finished 1m25 down.
Froome’s win meant this was the 7th British victory in the 2016 race, equaling the UK’s best performance at the Tour de France. Tomorrow’s stage is a 146km mountain stage that sees the riders having to tackle two Category 2 climbs, one Category 1 of a summit finish and a HC climb. Expect to see a lot of Sky, Movistar and Trek trying to look after their team leaders, while Astana will likely send Aru in a breakaway or by himself closer to the finish of the stage for the first Italian win this Tour.