Kittel wins crash-marred Stage 11, Froome stays safe

VIDEO - Tour de France 2017: The Coach: The day for Edvald Boasson Hagen?

VIDEO - Tour de France 2017: The Coach: The day for Edvald Boasson Hagen?

"We did all we could to return to the top of the race". There are two likely sprint finishes left and a possible third, all of which favor Kittel, so Matthews would have to score serious points on stages 16 and 17, with Kittel drawing nearly none, to really have any shot at taking the lead.

Martin's efforts to chip away at the deficit continues to pay off and are making him a genuine danger to the race leaders.

"I just did not have the legs on that day, but I'd like to think that I've bounced back after two consecutive really hard days", said Froome. He was one of the greatest and most aggressive riders of any era but I don't remember him ever attacking a rival who was having bad luck.

After what were surely back to back moments of panic for the three-time Tour victor, Sky proved its collective prowess in handling critical situations within the GC battle as Froome regained contact.

Fifth-place Jakob Fuglsang, another Astana rider expected to play a key role alongside Aru in the mountains, was caught in the same crash. There was a true feeling that the race was going to spin out of control. "Everything was good on our side".

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And on Friday he was at it again, chasing off after Alberto Contador in the day's break and gaining nearly two minutes on Froome and race leader Fabio Aru.

Froome has been delayed by a wheel change while the team AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet, the child of the country, was launched on the offensive, with the approach of Peyra Taillade.

Froome described the finish as "quite savage".

And Froome, who was seventh on the stage one sec behind the victor, said: "It's great to be back in yellow".

This year's race has shown that big time gaps over a single stage are nearly impossible to gain amongst the leaders, meaning they must seize every opportunity that comes along, no matter how small.

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Froome also expects Contador to try and wreak havoc during Friday's shorter stage to Foix. "For sure, though, it was a sticky moment", team boss David Brailsford said.

"He's never shy to attack from far out. I might have been in yellow and then lost five minutes because everyone attacks the hell out of me", he said.

But it wasn't enough to claim the lead sprinter's green jersey from Marcel Kittel, although he did cut the German's points classification lead from 99 to 79.

Kittel has lost only one sprint since the Tour started and has been in a class of his own since sprint rivals Mark Cavendish and Arnaud Demare left the race.

"There were 30 kilometres to go and they all had an interest in distancing Froome". Contador placed third. Testifying to the brevity and relentless racing action of the stage, Barguil covered the distance in just 2 1/2 hours, half the time of longer stages with twice as much road to cover. But despite looking for the best possible aerodynamics position in the downhill section leading to Pau, he was swallowed up with just 250 meters left.

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