Thomas thrives as Froome fades

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He also mentioned the volatile atmosphere at the race when discussing Team Sky's Gianni Moscon, who was disqualified from the Tour on Sunday after lashing out at another rider, Fortuneo-Samsic's Elie Gesbert.

Fernando Gaviria of Colombia and Dylan Groenewegen - who had each won two stages in this year's race - called it quits during Stage 12 to Alpe d'Huez. But given the length of the time trial this year, Dumoulin might need to make up time on Friday to have a chance on Saturday.

Stage 18 saw local hope Demare, who had been accused by fellow sprint specialist Andre Greipel of holding on to his team auto in Wednesday's mountain stage to avoid missing the time cut, perfectly set up by Italian team mate Jacopo Guarnieri.

Greipel, who also quit in Stage 12, later apologised on Twitter, saying he had relied on "incorrect" information.

"I was thinking about Greipel", he said. It's regrettable that people doubt my performances.

"The best response would be to win today". (Cheating) is not my philosophy.

"I think we're in a brilliant position with G in the yellow jersey", Froome told NBC TV as he rolled past the line.

"You can't get carried away at the start because the last climb is one of the hardest of the tour". UAE-Emirates have a stage win but not for Alexander Kristoff so it's probably all in for him unless they put a man in the escape.

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Among them was polka dot jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe, Adam Yates and Damien Gaudin, who won the day's intermediate sprint, but contained none of Thomas's general classification rivals.

Four-time champion Chris Froome cracked in the feared 17th stage of the Tour de France through the Pyrenees on Wednesday, solidifying Sky teammate Geraint Thomas' hold on the yellow jersey.

Tonight's 200 kilometre stage features six categorised climbs, including the iconic Tourmalet and Aubisque. It's been frustrating, and sad because things didn't work out the way we'd hoped. "I think it was just too much to drink, a bit of an idiot".

Froome was not injured, Sky said.

"It will be a tough day, a good two hours of climbing", said Thomas.

"But having Froomey at my disposal is phenomenal". The police are duty bound to keep the roads clear for the riders and the officer who brought Froome down thought he was a fan.

He said he has been repeatedly spat at since the race started, and spectators have punched him and tried to make him fall off his bike. "But when I got back to the hotel and was showed the pictures it was obviously something else. It's not nice. It's not what you want". It is dramatic and exciting, but even in a mere 31km against the clock their time trialling capabilities are so limited, that Thomas, Dumoulin, Roglic and Froome will always have the upper hand.

The duo, desperate to deliver a result for the Australian team that's endured its share of misfortune, helped the group to a maximum two and a half minute advantage. "We will see if it's possible".