Valverde tops final mountain stage of Tour

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE of Spain won the final mountain stage of the 2012 Tour de France while Chris Froome finished second with yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins in tow in Stage 17 on Thursday.

Valverde finished the 143.5-kilometer ride from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes in four hours, 12 minutes and 11 seconds, with Sky teammates Froome and Wiggins crossing the finish line 19 seconds later. That meant Britain’s Wiggins retained his 2:05 lead over Froome in the general classification.

Vincenzo Nibali of Italy finished 37 seconds off the pace and although he remains in third place overall, he is now 2:41 off the pace with just three stages left.

Stage 18 is a 222.5 ride from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde followed by a 53.5-km time trial where Wiggins is expected to again shine. The finale is a 120-km race from Rambouillet to the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler extended his lead in the king of the mountain standings by ruling the day’s first three climbs to build an 11-point gap from Frederik Kessiakoff.