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Leader holds off challengers

Christopher Froome, left, rides with teammate and race leader Bradley Wiggins.

Getty Images

Christopher Froome, left, rides with teammate and race leader Bradley Wiggins.

LA TOUSSUIRE, France — Try as they might, rivals of Bradley Wiggins can't take his yellow jersey.

The three-time Olympic track champion, looking to become Britain's first Tour de France winner, beat back repeated attacks Thursday in a crucial Alpine stage won by ace French climber Pierre Rolland.

As Stage 11 began, Wiggins' main challengers were planning to unsettle him in the 92-mile ride along three big climbs from the 1992 Winter Olympics town of Albertville to the ski station at La Toussuire.

First, defending champion Cadel Evans took a shot at Wiggins on the longest climb — a tactic some questioned. On the way to the uphill finish, Belgium's Jurgen Van Den Broeck tried, too. Then Vincenzo Nibali did, twice.

Each time, Wiggins steadily, meticulously reeled them in.

Overall, Wiggins leads Sky teammate Christopher Froome, who rose to second, by 2:05. Nibali is third, 2:23 back. Van Den Broeck is fifth, 4:48 behind.

Evans, seemingly spent by his earlier attack, lost ground. He was unable to keep up with Van Garderen, who dutifully stayed back to help his team leader as best he could. Crossing the line, Evans let out a sigh. He didn't speak as rode through a scrum of reporters on way to a team hotel.

John Lelangue, the BMC team manager, acknowledged that the title defense was "getting more and more complicated."

.FAST FACTS

Tour de France

Yellow jersey: Bradley Wiggins of Britain

Today: 140 miles from Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux

TV: 7 a.m., NBC Sports Network

Leader holds off challengers 07/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:57pm]
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