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Maciej Bodnar

Froome all but seals 4th Tour de France win in Marseille

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Chris Froome has virtually sealed a fourth Tour de France victory on the penultimate stage, stamping his authority on the race in a time trial in Marseille streets.

Froome, the last rider to set off from the Stade Velodrome, finished third in the 22.5-kilometer stage won by Maciej Bodnar, and increased his overall lead.

Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran moved to second place in the general classification, 54 seconds behind Froome, after Frenchman Romain Bardet cracked and dropped to third overall, according to provisional results.

Only the largely ceremonial stage into Paris on the Champs-Elysees stands between Froome and his fourth triumph in five years.

The British rider from Team Sky also won cycling’s biggest race in 2013, 2015 and 2016. He did not win a single stage this year.

Froome, who was booed and whistled by fans at the Stade Velodrome when he went down the starting ramp, almost caught Bardet in the finale.

He was in control throughout, gaining time on his main rivals at all intermediate check points.

Bardet endured his first bad day after three grueling weeks, and reached his limits in the small climb up to Notre-Dame de la Garde cathedral.

Bardet salvaged a spot on the podium by one second, ahead of Mikel Landa of Spain.

Bardet had been second overall before the clock race, with an advantage of more than a minute over Landa. But the French rider melted in the heat on the twisting and technical time trial course.

He said, “I was in poor health and I paid for it, in cash.”

He added he felt his immune system starting to react after the last stage in the high Alps and “I didn’t feel well this morning.”

Twice a runner-up at the Giro d’Italia, Uran added another second-place finish at a Grand Tour on his resume but almost saw his hopes destroyed when he hit barriers as he entered the Velodrome, which hosted the start and finish of Stage 20. Uran managed to stay on his bike but lost precious time and finished 31 seconds off the pace.

Froome’s teammate, Michal Kwiatkowski, was second in the time trial, one second behind Bodnar.

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Marcel Kittel wins Tour de France stage after Alberto Contador crashes

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Polish rider Maciej Bodnar nearly pulled off an incredible wire-to-wire effort for his first Tour de France stage win. But after 125 miles in the lead, the 32-year-old was caught by the peloton in Stage 11 on Wednesday.

Marcel Kittel won his fifth stage of the Tour in a bunched sprint, after two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and podium contender Jakob Fuglsang both crashed.

Both Fuglsang and Contador regrouped to finish with the peloton, leaving no major shakeups in the overall standings. Chris Froome still leads by 18 seconds over Italian Fabio Aru as the Tour heads into the Pyrenees on Thursday.

Kittel edged Dylan Groenewegen and Edvald Boasson Hagen to become the first cyclist to win five stages in one Tour since Mark Cavendish in 2011. The record in one Tour is eight stages.

There are three more flat stages next week for Kittel to possibly seize in the absence of rivals Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare, all knocked out of the Tour.

TOUR: Results/Standings | Highlights | Broadcast Schedule

Bodnar was part of a breakaway group at the start of the 126-mile stage and was the last man caught, with fewer than 250 meters before the finish. Bodnar, who has never finished in the top 100 overall in 10 Grand Tour starts, was at the lead of the stage for about four and a half hours.

Fuglsang, in fifth place overall at the start of the day, suffered a broken wrist in a crash while one of his Team Astana mates, Dario Cataldo, had to abandon the race.

Later, Contador hit the pavement with about 13 miles left in the flat 126-mile stage. Contador’s hopes of a first Tour podium finish since 2009 were already dim. He entered the day in 12th place and 5 minutes, 15 seconds behind Froome.

Stage 12 on Thursday could be decisive. Riders face five categorized climbs in the Pyrenees over 133 miles. NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 4:50 a.m. ET, with NBCSN coverage at 7.

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