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Froome out in front after fending off Tour rivals

By Ian Parker

Chris Froome says he is in the perfect position after holding off repeated attacks on his Tour de France lead yesterday.

As Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) won the 184.5-kilometres ninth stage from Vielha val d'Aran to Andorre Aracalis, Froome fought to retain the yellow jersey he seized in surprise fashion on Saturday.

The Team Sky leader carries a 16-second lead into today's first rest day after repeatedly snuffing out attacks as torrential rain poured down. His group of rivals is dwindling.

The 31-year-old said: "Really happy with that. Of course, it would always be nice to try to take a bit more time, to have a bit more of a buffer in the yellow jersey.

"All in all I'm really happy. Going into the first rest day in yellow. Got a fantastic team around me. Couldn't be in a better place right now."

Briton Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), wearing the best young rider's white jersey, remains second overall after finishing 10th on the stage.

Froome finished 11th on the same time, six minutes 35 seconds behind Dutchman Dumoulin, who soloed to victory after attacking from the escape group 12km from the end.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was on Froome's wheel and the Colombian appeared to be the only rider not to try to stretch the Briton on the concluding ascent.

Quintana is fourth, 23secs adrift, with Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) third, 19secs behind.

The conditions contributed to the challenging day.

Thursday's stage to Mont Ventoux is likely the next key one for Froome and his overall rivals. Froome won on the Giant of Provence in 2013 en route to winning his first Tour.

The Briton's Tour has been better than expected so far, while Alberto Contador could not have fared much worse.

Two-time winner Contador (Tinkoff) abandoned the race yesterday, while sitting 20th overall, after early crashes and illness.

The escape group fragmented on the penultimate climb, the Col de Beixalis, with Dumoulin making his move in the valley before the concluding ascent.

The time-trial specialist made his move and no one could catch him. Dumoulin now has won stages at all three Grand Tours, after wins in last year's Vuelta a Espana and May's Giro d'Italia.

Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) won the sprint for second from Rafal Majka (Tinkoff).

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