Tour de France: For Chris Froome, plenty of room at top
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Chris Froome had his maiden Tour de France title within reach on Friday after the Briton survived the 204.5km 19th stage and Alberto Contador's camp conceded defeat. Team Sky rider Froome leads Spaniard Contador by five minutes 11 seconds with two stages left, one being Sunday's parade to the Champs-Elysées.
"It would take a lot for someone to take more than five minutes," Froome told reporters after the stage, which was won by Portugal's Rui Costa. "Having said that, I don't want to be complacent so we have to stay focused and switched on until tomorrow night at least."
As Contador, who earlier this week had marked the stage featuring four demanding climbs as the one where he could overhaul Froome, settled for second place, his Saxo-Tinkoff outfit rode to defend top position in the team standings.
"That was not our objective at the start of the Tour but at some point you have to admit that Chris was just much stronger than anyone else in the race," Saxo-Tinkoff sports director Philippe Mauduit told reporters.
Contador will also need to defend his second overall as only 47 seconds separate him from fifth-placed Joaquim Rodriguez going into Saturday's 20th stage, a 125-km ride from Annecy featuring six climbs with a summit finish at Semnoz.
Spaniard Rodriguez and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana, who holds the white jersey for the best young rider, finished Friday's stage with Froome and Contador and pose the biggest threat. They were, however, controlled by Contador's team all day.
Costa attacked on the final climb of the stage from Bourg d'Oisans and the Movistar rider pulled far enough clear of his rivals to start celebrating with a kilometre to go. 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.