Chris Froome retains strong Tour de France lead despite time penalty

Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez, Tour de France 2013, stage 18

Chris Froome (Sky) accepted a 20 second time penalty for an illegal feed in the Tour de France's Alpe d'Huez stage today. Running low on sugars, he took gels from the team car via team-mate Richie Porte in the final five kilometres.

"At the end of the day, a rule's a rule. If I've been giving it, I'll have to take it," Froome explained in a press conference.

"If you look at it technically, Richie actually took the feed from the car, not me. Maybe that's something that should be taken into consideration," Froome added.

Race rules state that a rider may not take food or drinks in the final ten kilometres of a mountaintop finish (20km for flat stages). The jury can modify it for certain stages and today it was established at six kilometres.

Froome lifted his right hand in the final five kilometres and signalled his need for help. Porte dropped back to the car and brought gels back to Froome.

"I needed it," Froome said earlier. "If it comes to a 20 second penalty, I can accept that."

Froome gained 57 seconds on direct rival Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) today. However, with the 20 second penalty, his earns were knocked back to 37 seconds.

"My main rivals were behind me. I knew it wasn't bad for me. I just had to keep myself in check," added Froome.

"I can assure you that's not the first time in my career that I've run out of sugar. It's a horrible feeling, I'm just happy to come out of the stage with more of an advantage. I'll accept that if that was a bad day."

Even with the 20 second penalty, he leads the overall by 5'11" over Contador with three days to race.

Porte, for his part, also received a 20 second penalty. Both Sky riders must also pay 200 Swiss Francs or £140 and Sports director, Nicolas Portal 1000CHF, around £695.

Froome appeared fresh and recovered after the stage. He rode on his turbo trainer and ate "a bowl of rice and a recovery bar, [and drank] a lot of fluid."

He needs it, tomorrow is another hard day. The 204.5-kilometre stage starts immediately with the Col du Glandon climb, covers the Col de la Madeleine and ends with the Col de la Croix Fry and a descent to Le Grand-Bornand.

"Tomorrow is possibly the hardest day of the Tour, it really will be a hard day even if it is not mountain top finish," Froome explained.

He does, however, feel comfortable in his lead. "I think it will be more of a battle played out for second and third overall because it's so close."

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