• Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome sprint for the line at Pra Loup. (AAP)Source: AAP
Stage 17 saw the challengers for the Tour de France's yellow jersey whittled down to just two likely contenders: Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana.
Cycling Central

23 Jul 2015 - 6:55 AM  UPDATED 23 Jul 2015 - 7:29 AM

The Team Sky and Movistar leaders were the key players in the general classification battle on Stage 17, leaving the rest of the general classification contenders in their wake.

While Quintana failed to eat into Froome's three-minute-plus lead, Froome commented that Quintana's assault had tested him.

“Nairo was definitely pushing me, testing me, and I especially felt that in that last kilometre. He was pushing on to see if I could respond, but I’m feeling good at this stage so I was able to do that," the Briton said.

“I’m expecting my rivals to keep trying to attack me. There’s still three really hard stages before we get to Paris, and Movistar will definitely keep trying to do that.”

Quintana was pleased with his performance, and indicated that Stage 17 had never been earmarked as one where he or teammate Valverde could make a difference.

"I felt really good today. I recovered fine and did not struggle after the rest day," said Quintana.

"We didn't have the intention of trying to turn things around today as there are days where the mountains are more demanding, and we think we'll be able to try harder later on."

Quintana suggested that Stage 18 will be "complicated", with the remaining two Alpine stages ripe for attacks.

"The one on Friday, finishing at La Toussuire, is a route that suits me well: full of ups and downs, with serious climbs, a hard route with long ascents," said Quintana. "Alpe d'Huez is a long climb whose slopes are really good for me. There's still room for battle."

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Indeed, the stage is set for plenty of action in the stages to come - especially both riders able to call on strong domestiques with high GC positions in the shape of Geraint Thomas and Alejandro Valverde. While this riders are over six minutes down and four minutes down respectively, attacks by either cannot be ignored.

Fatigue is also likely to play a major role in the next few days. Froome agreed that this Tour is one of the hardest in recent years.

"It feels like there aren't many intermediate or transition stages where you can sit on the wheels," he said. "Every day someone's riding full gas."

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