Froome put in a perfectly-measured ride over the 17-kilometre test against the clock from Sallanches to Megève to cement his position at the top of the general classification.
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Right up until the British Sky leader crossed the line, it was Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) who had looked to have set the day’s winning time. However, despite being slower at the first two time checks, Froome’s pace increased in the second half to claim his second stage win. Dumoulin had to settle for second, 21 seconds behind Froome.
Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) was the best of the rest of the other GC contenders, placing third on the stage behind Froome and Dumoulin. Australian Richie Porte (BMC) was fourth, also at 33 seconds.
Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) rode well to place 16th on the stage, just two seconds and one place ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). Mollema is now at 3-52 in second spot behind Froome overall, with Yates in third at 4-16.
Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost one minute and 10 seconds to Froome, but did gain time on Mollema and Yates, moving closer to a podium position. Quintana is now fourth at 4-37, 21 seconds behind best young rider Yates.
Considering the nature of the course, the make-up of the top 10 changed remarkably little with the same 10 riders – only Froome’s margin at the top changed significantly.
Aru moves up one place to seventh as Alejandro Valverde (movistar) drops a place, and Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) drops to 10th as Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) swaps places with him in ninth.
Unlike some of his rivals, Froome elected to use a full time trial bike with disc wheel at the back. Others, like Porte, elected to use a road bike with clip-on bars. Froome’s equipment choice evidently paid off.
Friday’s stage is the penultimate day in the Alps, and features a mountain-top finish after a relatively short 146km. It’s one of two opportunities left for Froome’s rivals to claw back some time – though it is more likely to be a scrap for minor placings, unless Froome encounters an unforeseen disaster.
Tour de France 2016, stage 18: Sallanches to Megève, 17km ITT
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky in 30-43
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 21 secs
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 33 secs
4. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 33 secs
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 42 secs
6. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto-Soudal at 1-02
7. Jon Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar at 1-03
8. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 1-05
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida at 1-08
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1-10
16. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 1-23
17. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1-25
18. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 1-28
23. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 2-09
General classification after stage 18
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky in 77-55-53
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 3-52
3. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 4-16
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 4-37
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 4-57
6. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 5-00
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 6-08
8. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 5-19
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida at 7-15
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-QuickStep at 7-18
15. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 22-24