• Chris Froome (Sky) was unable to gap his rivals on stage 18 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Chris Froome (Sky) hasn’t declared the Tour de France won but after safe passage through the Alps and as favourite for Saturday’s penultimate time trial, which is wedged between flat stages, he can be quietly confident.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
21 Jul 2017 - 7:44 AM  UPDATED 21 Jul 2017 - 8:20 AM

The defending champion proved fallible in the Pyrenees but in the Alps he withstood assault from Romain Bardet’s AG2R La Mondiale team and was surrounded by the collective might of teammates on Stage 18 to the Col d’Izoard last night.

“The main thing today was not to do something too crazy and risk losing everything, then see if in the final the legs were good,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said.

Sky teammate Michal Kwiatkowski almost came to a track stand after he did his turn and pulled off the yellow jersey group within the final four kilometres while Mikel Landa, now fourth overall, went up the road to force the hand of rivals that did not want to lose their respective positions on the general classification.

In the closing kilometres the title contenders, racing behind stage winner Warren Barguil (Sunweb), marked attacks from Froome but couldn’t make their own stick. Bardet tried and failed while Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) simply followed the wheel of the yellow jersey.

stage 18 highlights and report
Barguil victorious again on aggressive Alpine day
Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) claimed his second win of the 2017 Tour de France atop the Col d'Izoard, launching off the front of the group of favourites and sweeping up the breakaway to claim a famous victory.

"It’s so tight that they are in-between the balance of go full-gas and risk everything, or try to make a move and then look back on how the other contenders are. That’s what’s happening, except Romain where he went pretty hard,” Portal said.

“I thought Rigo would have tried something. I think it showed he knew, from the main five guys, it was the slower time trialists that would attack because on the time trial they may lose some time. Maybe Rigo thought he was happy with how he is and knows that he can time trial, so was happy to stay on the wheels with all the hard moves.”

The course for the 104th edition of the Tour was meant to lend to a more open, aggressive contest and while it did to an extent, Sky was able to respond and on the last day in the Alps reverted to its defensive style despite Froome’s minimal advantage.

The Briton has a 23-second lead on Bardet and 29-seconds on Uran leading into tonight's 22.5km technical test against the clock in Marseille.

“Of course it would have been nice to take a little bit of time today, but I’m pretty happy with that and I took two seconds on Rigoberto Uran who I think will be my biggest rival in the time trial," said Froome after the Stage 18 finish.

“I think it’s all still to race for in the final time trial to Marseille. It’s still close, it’s still everything to race for. If everything goes well I would fancy my chances in the time trial against the other guys but anything could happen still. It’s still very close.” - Chris Froome

“There is no room for any mistake or a bad day," Portal said. "But the hard stages in the mountains are done and it’s not about the team now, it’s about individual effort.”

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