SAINT-AMAND-MONTROND, France (AP) — Wily Tour de France riders who used the wind and worked together to trap their rivals turned a trek across the flats of central France into a thriller on Friday, as exciting and, for the most unfortunate, as decisive as any spectacular day in the mountains.
Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome lost some lead but not enough to endanger the Briton heading toward what is shaping up to be an intriguing finale in the Alps.
The team of Alberto Contador dealt the former two-time champion back into the game, putting him close enough to Froome to make the last week of the race interesting.
Contodor moved from fourth place, with a 3:54 deficit to Froome, he moved up to third, 2:45 off the lead. Bauke Mollema from the Netherlands, to second, now 2:28 from Froome.
Still, Froome’s time cushion remains significant and he is an excellent climber.
The imposing Mont Ventoux this Sunday and the Alps next week offer him chances to do damage of his own.
“Having lost a minute there, that’s always a bitter pill to swallow because we’ve worked really hard already to get the advantage we had. But saying that, we only lost a minute,” he said. “I think there will be more time won and lost on a stage like Ventoux.”