Froome remains in yellow jersey and on his toes

Froome lauds team-mates after reclaiming Tour lead

Chris Froome has reached the final week of the 2017 Tour de France still in the lead but, once again, his grip on the race teetered on the edge of real trouble.

"But I had fantastic support from my team-mates and Michal (Kwiatkowski) gave me a wheel".

Froome could hardly believe he won back so much time on a stage that, on paper, didn't seem set up to pose such difficulties for Aru. It was panic stations. "I really thought that that could be the yellow jersey changing shoulders again".

There was no such politeness this time.

Froome has never faced such a close battle at this stage of the race.

It looked like a missed opportunity for Froome's rivals as they could not capitalise on the effort he had spent making his way back over some of the steepest sections of the climb - hearing boos from the strongly pro-Bardet crowd as he went.

Froome said: "Well there's never a tiresome moment on this Tour".

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"I've got to focus on what I'm doing now and not worry about the other guys trying to take that jersey from me". "Otherwise it was game over for me". I panicked a little bit, it was a bit of a stressful moment. "Personally, if I was one of them, I would have gone flat out, no team mates left", the American said. "The wheel wasn't straight anymore", he said.

Help from teammates Sergio Henao (Colombia) and Mikel Nieve (Spain) led Froome back into the race with a hard push and the Britain led by 18 seconds over Italy's Fabio Aru and 23 over Frenchman Romain Barget in the overall standings at the finish.

One team, however, AGR2 Mondiale, went on ahead to try to get their man, Bardet, the stage win, and nearly succeeded. In particular, "finishes in the Rhone Valley often end up with bunched sprints", according to race general director Christian Prudhomme, per the Tour's official website.

As the Tour de France resumes tomorrow in Le Puy-en-Velay and gears up for a final, crucial six days, the peloton do so knowing that this is the closest general classification fight at this juncture since 1951. Christian Prudhomme, the race director, said at the route's unveiling last October that it should entice more attacks and prevent one team (pointedly, Sky) from controlling the race.

Aru held yellow for two stages before handing it back to Froome on a seemingly innocuous day for the GC contenders.

For the GC men, this has meant a reduction in days when they can attack one another.

In the last frenzied dash, Froome said teammate Michal Kwiatowski was urging him on over their radio system, yelling: "Froomey, go, go, go!" Now just 1:12 behind Froome - having started the day 1:26 back - Martin can expect to be watched even more closely by Froome and his Team Sky support riders from now on. "It's going to be every second, at this point - every second all the way until Paris".

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