British cyclist Bradley Wiggins is still comfortably in control of the Tour de France despite managing only third in the seventeenth stage of the prestigious event. Spain's Alejandro Valverde took the finish line to in the Pyrenees, with Wiggins' Team Sky mate Chris Froome 19s behind. Valverde was in tears after finishing the stage, having endured a turbulent start to the Tour with three crashes in earlier stages.
The stage consisted of an 89m (143.23km) ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to the ski station of Peyragudes and included three hard climbs and an uphill finish. A third place finish notwithstanding, Wiggins did manage to extend his lead over rivals for the Yellow Jersey. Wiggins' lead over Froome remains at two minutes and five seconds but overall third place cyclist, Vincenzo Nibali lost more than 18s to the leader.
Movistar leader Valverde, who is making a comeback after two years of suspension for doping, registered his third stage win following a late breakaway that saw Nibali drop away, particularly towards the finish line at Peyragudes. The Italian is now two minutes and 41 seconds behind Wiggins and, given there are only two days left (and convention dictates the Yellow Jersey is never attacked on the final stage), this was realistically Nibali's last chance. There is a time trial on Saturday but Wiggins is certainly the superior trialist and barring a shock should have that covered. Wiggins later revealed Froome encouraged him to come along even though he himself was trying to gain more time on Nibali.
"Chris encouraged me, saying 'Come on, come on. He's really strong ... he can win the Tour one day," the Metro quoted Wiggins as saying.
The next stage of the tour will feature a 137m (220.48km) ride from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde in central France. Wiggins, who could become the first cyclist from the UK to win the Tour de France, admitted he could feel the win.
Stage 17 Classification (Top Five):
- Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Movistar 4:12:11"
- Chris Froome (Britian) Team Sky +19"
- Bradley Wiggins (Britian ) Team Sky +19"
- Thibaut Pinot (France) FDJ +22"
- Pierre Rolland (France) Europcar +26"
Present Standings (Top Five):
- Bradley Wiggins (Britian ) Team Sky 78:28:02"
- Chris Froome (Britian ) Team Sky +2:05"
- Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas +2:41"
- Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium) Lotto Belisol +5:53"
- Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing +8:30"
For more information, visit the Tour de France's official Web site, here.
Where to Watch Live
You can follow all the action from the 2012 Tour de France, live, on iTV 4 and iTV 4 HD from 1pm BST to 6 pm BST. You can also follow the action live on the Tour's official Web site, here.