Quintana attacks to win brutal short mountain stage as Chris Froome Cracks
Chris Froome cracked on the feared 17th stage of the Tour de France through the Pyrenees on Wednesday, losing time to teammate and Yellow Jersey wearer Geraint Thomas
Colombian climber Nairo Quintana won a short but extremely difficult mountain stage with a solo attack up the brutal finishing climb to Col du Portet.
Quintana, finished 28 seconds ahead of Dan Martin, while Geraint Thomas crossed third, 47 seconds back and retaining his lead.
Froome cracked and lost time, 1m 35s behind, and dropped from second to third overall on GC, he's now 2 minutes, 31 seconds behind Thomas.
Tom Dumoulin moved up to second, 1m 59s behind Thomas, the Welsh rider who is seeking his first Grand Tour victory.
"Thomas has been the strongest, and that's the situation now," Dumoulin said. "For me, so far it has not been possible to gain time on him."
Froome, who's looking to win his fifth title appeared to be close to conceding.
"We just got to look after Thomas now," Froome said. "I've won the last three Grand Tours and G's ridden an absolutely faultless race this year, so he fully deserves to be in the yellow jersey, and fingers crossed he finishes it off and gets the job done in Paris."
Froome started to crack when Primoz Roglic attacked with 2.5 kilometers to go, and then was dropped when Dumoulin accelerated with 2 km to go.
Thomas jump on Dumoulin's wheel, while Froome quickly lost ground and had to be paced by Colombian climbing sensation Egan Bernal, who kept turning around to check to see if his team leader good keep up.
Froome looked visibily exhausted at the end of the stage.
It was Quintana's second stage victoryat the Tour, having won a stage in 2013.
"I went through some difficult moments in the first part of this Tour and lost some time," said Quintana, who is fifth overall. "But I still felt strong and had the energy to finish the race on a high. I usually improve in the third week of the Tour and it's going that way."
The 65-kilometer (40-mile) route from Bagneres-de-Luchon featured three grueling climbs with the brutal finish on the Col du Portet above Saint-Lary-Soulan at an altitude of 2,215 meters (7,267 feet) - the highest point of this year's race.
Measuring 16 kilometers at an average gradient of nearly nine percent, the climb of the Col du Portet is the second hardest in Tour history after Mont Ventoux.
Estonian rider Tanel Kangert launched an early solo breakaway and was first over the first climb of the Montee de Peyragudes.
World champion Peter Sagan, and Green Jersey wearer crashed on the descent of the second climb of the Col de Val Louron, he finished battered and bruised , his jersey torn.
Tanel Kangert was leading the stage halfway up the Col du Portet, when Quintana attacked out of the peloton and broke away.
Nairo Quintana said after the stage: "It was a really hard day, but a magnificent one for us, really comforting. It was a stage I had marked down many weeks before this race, one I had prepared well for. I regret so much not having found good legs prior to this stage; my body just didn't feel right, and lost too much time, which made me feel bad. Fortunately, I'm doing well now - let's hope we can take advantage and fight hard on Friday, because we really believe we can still do something big in this Tour. The Movistar Team always trusted my skills - and here are some results to pay them back them!
"The team was perfect today. We had Alejandro up there in the breakaway, helping me out as much as he could after the attack I had launched. Also Soler, leading the peloton with a hard pace, trying to make things harder for our rivals before my move. We knew it was a finish for pure climbers, and it showed today. Thanks to the team's work and Alejandro's support, I could ride over the Col du Portet as if it were a mountain TT, and attack without looking back. This win gives me massive confidence for the remainder of the Tour de France. We must continue fighting and attacking - we know the GC win will be extremely hard, but we'll try to make the race hard and see how far we can reach.
"Things did not go well for us in this Tour. We had some rough days, we were feeling sad. This brings us confidence and reasserts our will to fight in this race. I thank all my time, I thank God for protecting us and giving us hope and strength; my family and friends, always supporting me, giving me some advice, praying so things went well for us; and all Colombian fans. I feel their support on the road, wherever I go, with their messages on social media - it's great to have them by our side, it really means a lot to me, makes me continue to push hard."
Only Four Stages to go
Tomorrow's Stage 18 is an earsier day, until another mountainous stage in the Pyrenees on Friday.
Then there's an individual time trial on Saturday before the three-week race ends Sunday in Paris.
The race isn't over as Dumoulin or Froome could take back time in the individual time trial which they both specialise in, however, Thomas won this year's British National Time Trial.
VIDEO: 2018 Tour de France Stage 17 Highlights
2018 Tour de France Stage 17 Top 10
1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 2:21:27
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:28
3 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:47
4 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:52
5 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb
6 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:05
7 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 0:01:33
8 Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:35
9 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin 0:02:01
2018 Tour de France GC after Stage 17
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 70:34:11
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:01:59
3 Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:02:31
4 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:02:47
5 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:30
6 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:04:19
7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:34
8 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:13
9 Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:33
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:09:31