Chris Froome increases Tour de France lead


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The Independent Online

Chris Froome put his name in Tour de France history today with victory on the famed Mont Ventoux.

The Team Sky rider kicked away from Nairo Quintana as they passed the memorial to Tom Simpson, the first ever Briton to wear the yellow jersey, who died on the ascent during the 1967 Tour.

The victory on the Bastille Day stage, a 242.5 kilometre run from Givors, saw Froome extend his overall lead in the race with a brilliant ride on the 'Beast of Provence'.

He finished 30 seconds ahead of Quintana but even more importantly saw his main rival Alberto Contador cross one minute 40 seconds later, with Bauke Mollema even further back.

Froome now leads the general classification from Mollema by four minutes 14 seconds, with Contador 11 seconds further back.

Quintana is now sixth, five minutes 47 seconds back.

Froome crossed the line with one hand on his heart and the other raised in triumph after he conquered one of the most feared mountains in cycling - the first Brit ever to win on the mountain.

By the time he had scaled the 1,912 metre mountain he had spent almost six hours in the saddle, but that time was actually half an hour less than the most optimistic estimate for this stage, testament to the rapid pace set all day by the peloton.

Sky had delivered Froome to the foot of the mountain at the front of the peloton which was by then two minutes behind an early nine-man breakaway.

That group soon began to fracture as the road went uphill, with Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel bursting off the front dreaming of Bastille Day glory while Peter Sagan, content with intermediate sprint points with which to protect his green jersey, quickly dropped back, even pulling a wheelie for the cameras when he was caught.

Sky did not blink as further attacks went off the front from the likes of Jan Bakelants, with Peter Kennaugh and Richie Porte continuing to pace Froome up the early part of the climb.

Quintana launched his attack with 13km to go and quickly caught Chavanel before reeling in the others who followed him with doomed attempts, Bakelants and Mikel Nieve Iturralde.

He led Froome by 40 seconds with 10km to go, but Sky remained steady just in front of the Team Saxo-Tinkoff contingent.

Kennaugh peeled away, looking totally exhausted and Froome soon upped the pace to close the gap on Quintana, Contador sticking doggedly to his wheel.

The two rivals remained locked together with only Porte for company.

The Tasmanian whispered a few words to him 7.2km from the summit and immediately Froome kicked away, distancing Contador without even climbing out of the saddle.

He was quickly on the wheel of Quintana and briefly took a 14-second lead before allowing the Colombian to draw level, the two sharing the road as the relentless climb continued out of the trees and on to the bare rock of Mont Ventoux's upper reaches.

Contador did his best to control the gap with the help of fellow Spaniard Iturralde but still it continued to grow, reaching 30 seconds at the 4km mark.

As they passed the memorial to Simpson, who collapsed and died here a little more than a kilometre from the finish on July 13, 1967, Froome kicked again and he had an 11km lead by the flamme rouge, with Quintana giving up the chase.

By the time he climbed off his bike, Froome looked utterly exhausted and had to be given oxygen, but his job was done as he joined the shortlist of men to have savoured victory on this great mountain.