Chris Froome in action today. Peter Dejong
uphill battle

Froome tightens grip on yellow jersey in uphill time trial as Martin drops to 10th

It was a massive win for the Briton with just three more stages to go.

CHRIS FROOME’S INEXORABLE march towards a third Tour de France title continued apace today as he won the 18th stage uphill time-trial.

For more than an hour and a half, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin sat in the hot seat as his time of 31min 04sec remained unbeaten.

But, starting last of 177 riders, Froome gauged his effort to perfection to storm through and take the 17km time-trial in a time of 30.43.

“It’s a great position, it’s a really good feeling to have this kind of advantage coming into the last stages now,” said Froome.

“But we can’t get complacent, these [next two] stages will be really tough, we have to stay concentrated to get the job done all the way to Paris.”

Ireland’s Dan Martin finished 18th today in 32.11, 88 seconds behind Froome and that result saw him drop one place in the general classification, to 10th. He was overtaken in the overall standings by South Africa Louis Meintjes.

Meintjies gained 20 seconds on Martin in today’s time trial and is just three seconds ahead of the Etixx Quick Step rider in the general classification.

Martin has almost a minute to spare over the 11th place rider, Joaquin Oliver Rodriguez of Spain.

Having been only fifth fastest at the first time-check after 6.5km, Froome got stronger as he went and was a clear winner by 21 seconds.

Italian Fabio Aru took a surprise third place, edging out Richie Porte of Australia by a fraction of a second.

But both gained significant time on those around them and Porte, who started the day two minutes off second place, is now only 1.08 behind Bauke Mollema.

The Dutchman lost 1.25 to Froome but remains second overall at 3.52.

Yet he was the slowest of the riders placed second through sixth and while Froome has as good as wrapped up overall victory, the fight for a podium finish is set to rage on the next two Alpine stages.

Romain Bardet in fifth also gained significant time on Mollema and young Briton Adam Yates, who is third at 4.16.

It was even a relatively successful day for out-of-sorts Colombian Nairo Quintana.

Second to Froome in 2013 and 2015, the 26-year-old Quintana was expected to be favoured by this year’s course and many thought he should even be considered the favourite.

But he’s been a long way off his best form and unable to react when Froome has put on the after-burners.

He held on to fourth place but gained time on Mollema and Yates — although, losing ground to Bardet and Porte.

Ireland’s Sam Bennett finished 171st of the 177 riders in 36.47 and remains at the foot of the general classification.

© AFP 2016

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