Chris Froome laid his claim to the 100th Tour de France on Wednesday, blazing his way across the 33-kilometer stage 11 time trial to Mont Saint Michel to finish just 12 seconds slower than stage winner Tony Martin. Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the top finisher in a test of the specialists and the overall contenders along the Normandy coast.
Froome (Sky) registered a second-best time of 36:41, 12 seconds slower than Martin, who had targeted Wednesday’s stage as he fought through a concussion and bruised lung suffered in a crash on the race’s first day.
Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) was third, at 1:01.
“First of all, I had a terrible last 30 minutes,” Martin said of watching Froome’s run at the stage. “I didn’t expect he was coming so close. I’m really happy now that he lost some seconds in the final. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you win by just a second.
“For sure, the stage today suits me much more than him, but you already saw in the climbs that he has incredible power.”
Froome’s ride drove a massive wedge between him and the rest of the GC contenders. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) defended second and third overall, respectively, but each lost more the two minutes, falling to 3:25 and 3:37 down, respectively. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) moved up from sixth to fourth overall, at 3:54.
“I’m really happy with that result. Tony did a fantastic ride to win the stage … I’m really happy with second place and having extended my advantage to the overall contenders,” said Froome. “It gives me a big buffer going into the next few days, but I think I need as much as I can get, with how these guys are riding.”
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) used the constant wind and mostly flat profile to pull the best young rider’s jersey back from Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who led the competition since his aggressive ride through the Pyrénées last weekend. Kwiatkowski leads Quintana by 34 seconds.
“I am very happy to get back this white jersey,” said the Polish road champion. “It was a big stage for us, with Tony winning, and me and Sylvain [Chavanel] riding well. I am looking to the Tour day by day. Quintana is such a good climber, he will probably take the jersey again, but I will fight as long as I can with the favorites.”