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Froome all but home as Tour de France 2016 enters final stages

CHRIS Froome’s quest for back-to-back Tour de France victories appears a fait accompli after he survived a ferocious finish in stage 16 to retain a lead of almost two minutes over his nearest rival.

Froome, now an unbackable $1.10 favourite with Sportsbet, did what he needed to do to hold onto his lead and said he was looking forward to Tuesday’s rest day as the Tour enters its final five legs.

“Everyone is quite glad there is a rest day tomorrow,” Froome said after the 209-kilometre trek from Morains-en-Montagne to Berne, Switzerland.

“That was a tough day out there.

“I’m pretty tired, to be honest.”

The next four stages are mountain climbs through the Alps, before the ceremonial final chase to the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Froome says he is eager to hit the mountains.

“I’m looking forward to that rest, but I’m looking forward to the Alps,” he said.

“I’m motivated, the team has been great and I’m really looking forward to these last few days now.

“The team is in fantastic shape.

“I don’t think we have ever been at this point in the race and still had nine riders left, so that’s a great advantage for us.

“The guys are doing well, the morale is good.

“We have got the leader’s jersey and there is a lot to fight for still.

“I’m looking forward to getting back into the mountains now.”

Peter Sagan won his third stage of Tour 2016, giving him a tight grip on the green jersey.

He is $1.01 with to win the sprinters’ title and is almost no chance of being caught by challengers like Mark Cavendish ($26).

Froome paid tribute to the Slovak Team Tinkoff machine.

“He’s a phenomenal rider,” Froome said.

“I think most people in the peloton are scared of him and his ability.

“He can do everything.

“He chooses when he wants to go in the breakaway, how he wants to ride.

“I’m surprised he didn’t attack in the last climb and go away solo, but he still managed to win the stage.”

Aussie Richie Porte remains in contention, despite crossing the line in 18th, but he would need a miracle to make up the almost four-and-a-half-minute deficit on Froome.

The $51 chance said the speed of the stage made it death-defying on the run home.

“It was a mess of a finish,” Porte said.

“It was quite dangerous in that last 10km but the whole day was just so fast.

“I’m in good condition and it is a hard four-day block coming up after the rest day.

“I think I’ve got everything to play for now, I’m not too far off podium. It’s a big goal so bring it on.”

It was a great stage for Aussie Michael Matthews, who finished fifth.

Froome’s nearest challenger in the betting market is Nairo Quintana, but the Colombian, who has twice been Froome’s bridesmaid, looks set for more heartbreak.

The $17 second-favourite conceded Froome’s Team Sky might just be too strong for his Movistar cohorts.

“The truth is they’re really strong – they have a very, very strong team,” Quintana said.

“You saw it there – attacks that normally cause trouble, they rapidly neutralised them.

“Although we attacked we saw the strength of his team.

“Astana tried as well but it was impossible due to the strong rhythm they set all day, and also the high temperatures.”

Froome’s countryman, Adam Yates ($41) might be the smokey if you’re looking for someone who might be able to pull of a surprise.

He is nearly three minutes behind Froome, but holds the white jersey.

Yates has had a superb tour, despite being whacked by a fan on Bastille Day.

“It was a crazy situation,” Orica-BikeExchange sporting director Matt White said.

“Adam actually got hit, we’ve got video footage of someone jumping out of the crowd and hitting Adam, and it was this close to him crashing and he didn’t even mention it after.

“It was a ridiculous situation he had to handle as well as all the attention that comes with the white jersey.

“He has handled it very well.

“I’ve seen a different maturity and calmness from Yates over the last three weeks.”

Yates said he did not think the hit was intentional.

“You saw what the crowds were like, you have this much room,” he said.

“It was just someone getting excited but it is what it is.

“There was 800m to go so we were pretty much full gas at that moment, you just keep going and try to get to the line.”

The Tour resumes on Wednesday with a 184.5km 17th stage ending with a summit finish at Finhaut-Emosson.

Tour de France general classification market

Chris Froome ($1.10)

Nairo Quintana ($17)

Bauke Mollema ($21)

Adam Yates ($41)

Richie Porte ($51)

Alejandro Valverde ($51)

Fabio Aru ($101)

Tejay Van Garderen ($101)

Daniel Martin ($151)

Romain Bardet ($151)

Sergio Henao ($151)

Joaquin Rodriguez ($301)

Geraint Thomas ($301)

Roman Kreuziger ($401)

Warren Barguil ($401)

Odds provided by

Tour de France Green Jersey winner market

Peter Sagan ($1.01)

Mark Cavendish ($26)

Marcel Kittel ($81)

Alexander Kristoff ($401)

Bryan Coquard ($401)

Daniel McLay ($501)

Alejandro Valverde ($501)

Dylan Groenewegen ($501)

Bauke Mollema ($501)

Edvald Boasson Hagen ($501)

Greg Van Avermaet ($501)

John Degenkolb ($501)

Andre Greipel ($501)

Chris Froome ($501)

Michael Matthews ($501)

Odds provided by

Tour de France stage 17 (Berne – Finhaut-Emosson) winner market

Chris Froome ($3.25)

Nairo Quintana ($7)

Richie Porte ($9)

Bauke Mollema ($11)

Rafal Majka ($13)

Fabio Aru ($17)

Ilnur Zakarin ($17)

Rui Costa ($26)

Sebastian Reichenbach ($26)

Warren Barguil ($34)

Adam Yates ($41)

Stephen Cummings ($41)

Alejandro Valverde ($41)

Steve Morabito ($41)

Romain Bardet ($41)

Vincenzo Nibali ($51)

Julian Alaphilippe v51)

Joaquin Rodriguez ($51)

Tom Dumoulin ($51)

Alexis Vuillermoz ($67)

Pierre Rolland ($67)

Daniel Martin ($67)

Jarlinson Pantano ($67)

Thomas De Gendt ($67)

Serge Pauwels ($67)

Daniel Navarro ($67)

Others quoted

Odds provided by

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