Chris Froome (Team Sky) took a huge stride forward towards taking his third Tour de France title with a dominant victory in the stage 18 time trial. Froome added almost a minute and a half to his lead in the yellow jersey, giving himself a buffer of just under four minutes going into the final two mountain stages.
Froome was only fifth fastest at the first check at the top of the Cote de Domancy, but he turned his 23-second deficit into a 21-second lead by the finish line in Megeve, beating pre-stage favourite Tom Dumoulin. As well as putting 1:25 into second place Bauke Mollema, Froome increased his advantage to Nairo Quintana by more than a minute.
"That was a big objective for me today, and I'm just so happy with that result. I was hoping to take time on my GC rivals but to come away with a stage win was amazing. I'm really happy," Froome told the press following the race. "It's a great position. It's a really good feeling to have this sort of advantage coming into the next two days. At the same time, we can't be complacent; we have to stay concentrated and to get the job done all the way to Paris.
"I think the main thing for me right now is to stay safe and away from any big incidents before Paris. I've got a fantastic advantage right, I've got almost four minutes on second place, so it's about looking after that advantage and just not taking any risks and staying out of trouble."
One of the big talking points ahead of the stage was what sort of equipment to use with the course not a full-on mountain time trial but containing some extremely steep sections. Most opted to use a road bike with aero attachments, an option Froome considered too. In the end, he was one of the few to ride with a time trial bike; Dumoulin was another. Unlike Dumoulin, Froome also decided to use a disc wheel on the back and a tri-spoke on the front – in fact, he was the only rider to use a full TT set-up.
"The equipment choice was paramount today, but I also had to have the legs to ride the equipment choice as well as possible," Froome said. "I'm extremely grateful to have the support team behind me to help me with my decisions. When I looked at the parcours, I thought that I should use a road bike but after their analysis, we decided to go with the full TT set-up. With the Pinarello TT bike, we were able to save a lot of weight there so that I was able to ride a TT bike and not have to worry about kilograms. I was able to use a TT bike to get up the climb."
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Following the stage, Froome was asked to assess his rivals and which he expected to be his strongest competitor. The yellow jersey named his former teammate Richie Porte, who has been scaling the overall standings over the past week.
"Obviously, Richie did a very good ride yesterday," he said. "He was the only one who really took the race and he rode a really strong race at the front. In my opinion, Richie looks like the rider with the most to gain in these next couple of stages. Obviously, he had some back luck earlier in the race, and it's a shame that he lost that time earlier on. If he continues the way he is then, he'll be on the podium in Paris."
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