Tour de France: Chris Froome holds lead as Simon Geschke wins stage 17
Briton still 3min 10sec ahead as Alberto Contador loses 2min 17sec
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 23/07/15 12:00am
Chris Froome retained a 3min 10sec lead of the Tour de France as two of his rivals fell away on a mountainous 17th stage won by breakaway rider Simon Geschke.
Froome (Team Sky) fended off several attacks to finish the race's first day in the Alps just behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 20th place, but Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) lost another 2min 17sec after a crash and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who had been third overall, was forced to abandon due to illness.
The result means that Froome and Quintana stay first and second in the general classification, with their closest competition now coming from their respective team-mates. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has risen to third, 4min 9sec adrift, while Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is up to fourth, 6min 34sec down.
Contador drops to 6min 40sec back in fifth overall, which finally kills off his already slim chances of victory and, combined with Van Garderen's withdrawal, leaves Quintana as the only rider with a realistic chance of denying Froome a second Tour triumph.
Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) formed part of the day's 28-man breakaway but forged clear on his own with just under 50km remaining and hung on to beat Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) into second place by 32 seconds and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx - Quick-Step) into third by 1min 1sec.
Geschke said: "I think I'm going to need a couple of years to realise what has happened. At the beginning of today's stage, I wasn't feeling very good. I have had a few difficult days previously because of the heat.
"I knew I needed a gap before the last climb. If I had that, I knew I had a chance. I have definitely ridden beyond my limits of pain, but I'm happy. I am so emotional. It has been extraordinary to have this victory."
Stage 17 took the riders on a mountainous 161km route from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup and Van Garderen, who had picked up an illness, was dropped early in the day when Quintana launched an unexpected attack and the peloton split apart as Team Sky chased.
Van Garderen caught back up after a large breakaway had finally been allowed to go clear, but when Contador also launched an surprise attack, he was dropped for the second time and later quit the race in tears.
Geschke joined the breakaway but moved into a lone lead at the foot of the day's penultimate climb, the Col d'Allos, and although the likes of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Talansky and Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) all gave chase, the German held on to claim the biggest win on his career.
Back down the road, all of the race favourites crested the Allos summit together, but then Contador crashed on the descent down the other side and continued to lose time all the way up the final climb to the summit finish at Pra Loup.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Quintana both attacked Froome in attempt to close their overall deficits, but on each occasion they were shut down by the defiant Team Sky rider.
The Tour continues on Thursday with a 186.5km mountain stage from Gap to St-Jean-de-Maurienne. Follow it with our live blog from 1pm BST and find out more about the route in our race guide.
Stage 17 result
1 Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Alpecin, 4:12:17
2 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin, +32secs
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step, +1:01
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr, +1:36
5 Mathias Frank (Sui) IAM Cycling, +1:40
6 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, +2:27
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky, +3:02
8 Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Movistar, +3:04
9 Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN-Qhubeka, +3:05
10 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEdge, +3:21
18 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +7:16
20 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, same time
21 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +7:23
22 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +7:31
24 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +8:18
31 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +9:33
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 65:06:49
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +3:10
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +4:09
4 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +6:34
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, +6:40
6 Robert Gesink (Net) LottoNL-Jumbo, +7:39
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +8:04
8 Mathias Frank (Sui) IAM Cycling, +8:47
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing, +11:47
10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin, +13:08