Froome on the cusp of history

Colombian Quintana stuns field to win 20th stage on penultimate day

Froome on the cusp of history

 Chris Froome of Britain virtually sealed his maiden Tour de France title when he retained the overall leadafter Saturday's penultimate stage won by Nairo Quintana.

The Team Sky rider finished third on the 20th stage after attacking on the slopes of Semnez with Quintana and Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez who took second.

Froome leads Colombian Quintana by five minutes and three seconds overall with Rodriguez in third. Barring crashes, they will take the podium when the peloton crosses the line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris at the end of Sunday's parade.

It was a first stage win for Quintana, who is riding in his maiden Tour. He also has the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider and the polka-dot one for the mountain classification.

Slovakian Peter Sagan just has to finish the Tour to retain the green jersey for the points classification.

Former Tour winner Alberto Contador, who started the stage second overall, cracked on the final climb and had no answer when Rodriguez, Quintana and Froome sped away to fight out the stage win between them.

Spain's Contador, dripping with sweat, crossed the line over two minutes behind Froome and dropped down to fourth in the standings, 7:10 behind the Briton. The 19th stage of the Tour was won by Portuguese Rui Costa and he said that he had it in him to win it.
“I'm in great form, I knew I had to be in the breakaway but I did not have victory in mind,” he said.

Germany's Andreas Kloeden was next over the line, 48 seconds behind Costa and Jan Bakelants of Belgium was third after the peloton rode through thunderstorms in the finale.

It was Costa's second stage win after the Portuguese had taken another solo victory in Gap on Tuesday.

Last year's Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal of Canada went solo from an early breakaway group before being joined by France's Pierre Rolland five kilometres from the top of the Col de la Madeleine.

It proved too much of an effort for the Garmin-Sharp rider, who let Rolland ride away as the sky darkened with threatening clouds.

Just as the rain started to pour, Costa picked up Rolland and left him behind, riding solo with the lights of the motorbike brightening up his pedalling legs. French champion Arthur Vichot crashed heavily in the descent but got back on his bike while German Marcus Sieberg left the race after also hitting the tarmac.

The 18 previous days of racing took their toll as Kris Boeckmans and Christophe Le Mevel pulled out midway through the stage.

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