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Froome extends Tour lead despite crash

By Ian Parker

Chris Froome crashed but saw his lead grow at the top of the overall standings as Romain Bardet won a damp, treacherous stage 19 of the Tour de France to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc.

Team Sky's Froome hit the deck inside the final 15km as rain fell late on the 146km stage from Albertville and, though he quickly swapped bikes with Geraint Thomas and got back on his way, his rivals were able to put him under pressure on the final climb of Mont Blanc as the rips in his yellow jersey revealed his scars.

But at the summit, only Nairo Quintana was able to grab a handful of seconds on Froome, with most of the damage that was done being physical.

There were dramas throughout the peloton in the difficult conditions, with Trek-Segafredo's Bauke Mollema dropping from second overall to 10th after a crash while Adam Yates slipped from third to fourth having been dropped on the final climb.

That means Froome now leads by four minutes and 11 seconds from AG2R La Mondiale's Bardet, who moved up from fifth place, with Quintana in third, a further 16 seconds back.

After losing touch, Yates is now fourth overall, 11 seconds off the podium, but still holding the white jersey as the best young rider with only one more mountain stage left before the traditional parade into Paris.

Froome crossed the line ninth, 36 seconds behind Bardet, and was seen after the stage ended with some heavy bandaging on his right knee.

"It's ironic really as I was just trying to stay up front," Froome said of the crash.

"I was just trying to stay safe and out of trouble but I think I just hit a white line on the road and lost my front wheel.

"I'm okay - I'm lucky nothing seriously injured. I just lost a bit of skin and I banged my knee a bit.

"Today is the kind of day when you feel grateful you've got about a four-minute advantage so I could fall back on that a little bit.

"Today shows the Tour is never won until you get to Paris. I am grateful I was not seriously injured. It could have gone either way."

Froome wasn't the only rider to come off his bike during stage 19 as two-stage winner Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin hit the deck before the rain even began in a nasty crash which left him with nasty injuries to his left wrist and elbow.

The Dutchman was in tears when he was forced to abandon soon after, with his Olympic time trial hopes now hanging in the balance.

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