CHORGES, France (AP) — Chris Froome edged Alberto Contador to win the 17th stage of the Tour de France in a rainy time trial and extend his overall lead on Wednesday.
The British rider was slower than Contador on the first part of the undulating 20-mile course from Embrun to Chorges in the French Alps, but gained time on the final section and finished 9 seconds ahead of the Spaniard to clinch his third stage win of the race.
Froome, who has also won two mountain stages, made up for missing out last week when he was edged by Tony Martin in the first time trial on Stage 11.
"This is incredible for me," Froome said. "This morning I thought to myself: 'OK, I'm ready to lose a bit of time because tomorrow will be very hard.' So I'm surprised to win."
Bauke Mollema held second-place overall for several stages, but Contador took his place as the Dutchman dropped to fourth.
Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez finished the stage in third place, 10 seconds behind Froome — who is 4 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of Contador overall and 4:51 clear of Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Roman Kreuziger. Mollema is fourth at 6:23.
Froome, wearing an aerodynamic black helmet with a thick yellow stripe down the middle coughed into his right hand as he prepared to start. When the five-second countdown finished, Froome puffed his cheeks and rolled down the ramp.
The day after narrowly avoiding a crash when Contador fell in front of him on a long downhill, Froome started cautiously on a circuit that was slippery after some afternoon rain and featured two short, sharp climbs and two quick descents.
"The first downhill was dangerous and very technical, so I didn't want to take any risks," Froome said.
He was 2 seconds behind Contador at the first time split. The Spaniard took more risks and continued to open up a gap.
It looked like Contador's day, with Froome 11 seconds behind when he reached the top of the second climb.
"The first and the second check, I know I was a little bit behind Alberto. That bike change really made the difference," said Froome, who switched bikes during the stage.
The Briton started to work on the deficit.
"The first bike was more adapted to climbing," Froome said. "The second bike was a little faster."
American rider Tejay van Garderen, who was 10th, was relieved to finish the stage.
"The entire course, any moment you could make a mistake and slip up," he said.
One rider was in trouble before the stage started.
French cyclist Jean-Christophe Peraud went for a training ride in the morning and fell on a descent. He sustained a small fracture to his right shoulder, but the team's medical staff deemed him fit to ride.
He then fell near the end of the race, landing heavily on the same shoulder. He looked bewildered as he sat up on the road, and clutched his arm as team members rushed toward him.
He eventually rose to his feet, staggering in pain.
"He's a very brave lad, you have to take your hat off to him," AG2R La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu said of Peraud. "In the last turn, he probably took a little bit too much risk."
Mollema had a scare near the end when he took a turn too fast and slammed into the barriers but got back up.
Riders have three grueling days of climbing in the Alps before the evening finish on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.
The 107-mile trek Thursday from Gap to L'Alpe-Huez has two HC ascents of L'Alpe-Huez — one of the Tour's most famed climbs. Both of the ascents are known as HC (Hors Categorie, meaning they are so tough they are considered beyond classification.)
There's also a treacherously fast descent from the top of Col de Sarenne — which might make Froome a bit nervous after nearly falling on Tuesday.
There are two more HC climbs and two Category 1 ascents on Friday, and another HC finish on Saturday.