SAINT-LARY-SOULAN, France (Reuters) - Chris Froome said he would now look after his team mate Geraint Thomas in the final days of the Tour de France after losing more time to the yellow jersey holder on Wednesday’s 17th stage.
The defending champion, who was looking to win a record-equaling fifth Tour, cracked two kilometers from the finish in a 16-km punishing climb up to the Col du Portet.
He now trails his fellow Briton by 2:31 with three competitive stages left and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin sandwiched in between them.
Froome, who was also hoping to be the first man in 20 years to achieve a Giro d’Italia-Tour double, has very limited options as he will not be allowed to attack the yellow jersey so close to Paris.
“I think he’s got almost a two-minute lead on Dumoulin, which I think is a pretty comfortable lot,” Froome told reporters after finishing 1:35 behind stage 17 winner Nairo Quintana and 48 seconds behind Thomas.
“I imagine we’ll be able to finish it off. We’ve just got to look after him now,” he added, seemingly conceding defeat.
“I’ve won the last three Grand Tours and G’s (Thomas) ridden an absolutely faultless race this year, so he fully deserves to be in the yellow jersey, and fingers crossed he finishes it off and gets the job done in Paris.” Thursday’s 18th stage is a flat route to Pau while Friday’s 19th is a long mountainous trek finishing down the descent from the Col d’Aubisque.
Saturday’s individual time trial will determine the final standings ahead of Sunday’s parade to the Champs-Elysees.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis