Froome, a 32-year-old Kenyan-born Briton who rides for Team Sky, finished third, six seconds behind stage winner Marciej Bodnar of Poland, who crossed the finish line of the 22.5km individual time trial in 28 minutes, 15 seconds.
“I’m so happy for Chris,” Nicolas Portal, Team Sky sports director, told broadcaster Eurosport. “It was a really strong time trial. Everything was under control for him. He didn’t take any risks, he paced himsef really well.”
Froome extended his lead to 54 seconds, with Rigoberto Uran of Colombia leapfrogging Romain Bardet of France into third going into Sunday’s run into Paris.
Barring an accident or other calamity, Froome is assured of the Tour de France victory as the final stage is traditionally a procession into Paris.
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“Moment of truth”
It was billed beforehand as “the moment of truth” in the Tour de France and Froome came through it with flying colors.
Riding in reverse order, Froome had been the last racer to go just after 4PM local time to loud boos and cheers from the French crowd.
Froome had started the time trial with a 23 second lead over France’s Bardet, who faded in the second part of the time trial and hung on to a podium finish by one second.
Bardet nearly clipped the barier halfway through the race as he went for broke through the streets of France’s second-largest city, cheered on by thousands of spectators lining the route through the old town of Marseille.
But he paid the price for taking off too fast as he faded in the second part of the race as he climbed up a 400-meter long hill to the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the chapel overlooking the city on the Mediterranean, in a high gear.
Uran nearly crashed on the final corner before heading to the finish line inside the stadium, having to take his foot off the bike to steady himself.
Froome, meanwhile, never put a foot wrong as he raced steadily through the streets of Marseille, and almost caught up with Bardet, who had started two minutes before him, at the fininsh line to loud boos from the crowd inside the stadium.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford had told French television on Friday that Froome’s 23 second lead was “nothing.” He added: “Everyone thinks it’s done but it’s not. He has to avoid crashing or going too fast at the start.”
The yellow jersey had only been lost once in the final time trial, when Cadel Evans made up a 57-second gap with Andy Schleck in Grenoble, according to Cycling News.
Having started with a 14-km time trial in the streets of Duesseldorf, Germany on July 1, the riders also competed in Luxembourg and Belgium and will have raced more than 3,500 kilometers by the time they finish on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday. With just two rest days and 23 mountains or hills to climb in the Alps and the Pyrenees, the Tour de France is the sport’s toughest race.