Nairo Quintana takes 17th stage as Geraint Thomas solidifies lead

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But yeah, I'm in a great position.

"But we have to keep on fighting".

But the Welshman was one of several riders left requiring treatment after tear gas got in his eyes and throat when national gendarmes sprayed tear gas in a bid to clear protesting farmers from the road, which they had blocked with bales of hay around 26km into the 218km ride.

But he unleashed a stunning ride that after 2hrs 21m 27s gave him victory by 28s from Irishman Dan Martin (Team UAE-Emirates) and 47s ahead of third-placed Thomas. "For me, so far it has not been possible to gain time on him". The two distanced the rest of the group but were brought back not by Sky, but Tom Dumoulin and his big engine.

However, while he hopes his colleague will be able to contend himself, Thomas knows Froome's help from third place could be vital.

Froome finished eighth, 1 minute 35 seconds behind stage victor Nairo Quintana, and dropped from second to third overall, a distant 2:31 seconds adrift of Thomas.

"I was thinking about Greipel", he said.

Froome finished No. 8 in the stage, behind fellow Team Sky cyclists Geraint Thomas and Egan Arley Bernal Gomez. "I'm going to suffer a little bit, that's all".

"With no space to park the team buses at the top of the summit finish of the Col du Portet, riders had to turn around at the finish and descend back down the way they had climbed in order to reach the buses midway down the mountain".

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In that section, Dumoulin accelerated but Roglic, Thomas and Froome, his face a mask of pain, jumped on his wheel.

"G has ridden such an unbelievable race and he deserves to be in yellow - and, fingers crossed, he holds it now until Paris", said Froome. But it did boost his confidence for the finale.

"I thought it was maybe an accident, just maybe an overly exuberant fan", Thomas said.

He said he has been repeatedly spat at since the race started, and spectators have punched him and tried to make him fall off his bike.

"I thought a lot about [Greipel] today".

Geraint Thomas took another huge step towards winning the 2018 Tour de France, finishing strongly in the final mountain stage to take an overall lead of two minutes and five seconds going into Saturday's time trial. He later revealed signs of Giro fatigue in the Alps as teammate Thomas emerged as the Tour's strongest rider. I just felt my handlebars go as I was passing. But it's the end of long hard weeks and there's a time trial tomorrow.

Pau: Frenchman Arnaud Demare flirted with the rule book on his way to holding off sprint rival Christophe Laporte and claim a well-deserved victory in the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday.

Two fourth category climbs, but the stage is a prime opportunity for the remaining sprinters to try their chance, as the overall contenders will be preparing for the final stage in the Pyrenees on Friday.