The Tour Take | Tour de France Stage 17
1st – Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar)
2nd – Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) @ 0:28
3rd – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) @ 0:47
Stage 17 was only 65km long but it featured three crucial climbs and a novel innovation. The much anticipated “f1 grid start” made its debut, where riders started the stage in order of their GC position. It fizzled out and didn’t particularly produce any excitement, but it looked kind of cool, so don’t be surprised to see it again in the future.
The first climb of the day was the Category 1 Montee de Peyragudes (14.9km at 6.9%), starting straight out of Bagneres-de-Luchon. A long climb, it’s steeper than that for most of the way up, before a flatter final 2km. A quick descent took them to the foot of the Category 1 Col de Val Louron-Azet (7.4km at 8.3%. though it was the shortest climb of the day, it was also steep, and the winding mountain road made for a tough climb.
The Col de Portet held the summit finish, and it was also the highest point of this year’s Tour de France. The 16km climb averaged 8.7%, with several sections above 10% coming in the final kilometres.
Yellow – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Green – Peter Sagan (Bora – hansgrohe)
Polka Dot – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors
White – Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
The GC Men
1st Overall - Geraint Thomas
2nd - Tom Dumoulin @ 1:59
3rd - Chris Froome @ 2:31
4th - Primoz Roglic @ 2:47
5th - Nairo Quintana @ 3;30
6th - Steven Kruiswijk @ 4:19
7th - Mikel Landa @ 4:34
8th - Romain Bardet @ 6:33
9th - Daniel Martin @ 6:33
10th - Jakob Fuglsang @ 9:31
While the grid start didn’t aid the formation of a break as the peloton quickly regrouped, we did get a breakaway fairly quickly. Two groups formed over the Peyragudes; a leading group with Tanel Kangert, Julian Alaphilippe and Kristian Durasek, and the following group with Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler Rafal Majka, Daniel Martinez, Bauke Mollema and Omar Fraile. The Alaphilippe ground gained around 1:00 on the Valverde group, and another 3:00 on the peloton behind, as Kangert led over the top.
On the second climb of the day, the front group continued their strong pace, with Alaphilippe keen to extend him KOM lead. He and Kangert dropped Durasek near the top, and the second group also thinned out, with Mollema and Muhlberger being dropped and Soler waiting for the peloton.
The peloton closed the gap to 2:30 by the top of the climb, with AG2R setting the pace for Romain Bardet, while Marc Soler also set a furious pace that dropped several riders.
At the bottom of the final climb, Kangert immediately dropped the Polka-Dot-wearing Alaphillippe, however, the advantage didn’t look anywhere near enough to last until the finish.
The first big attack came from Nairo Quintana, who attacked with 15km to go on the Portet. He was allowed to go up the road, being 4:23 down on GC. He soon bridged up to his teammate Valverde and caught Kangert by the 8km to go point with Rafael Majka able to follow. Dan Martin also tried to follow but found himself stuck in the middle after not being able to keep pace
So with 8km to go, the Yellow Jersey group was down to Thomas, Froome, Bernal, Poels, Kruiswijk, Roglic, Landa, Bardet and Dumoulin, 1:00 behind Quintana with Martin in between. With 6.5km remaining, Quintana was going alone, having dropped Majka on the steep slopes of the Portet. At the same time, Bardet was dropped from the Yellow Jersey group, his podium chances disappearing.
With 3km to go, the attacks started again, and cracks started to appear; Primoz Roglic briefly accelerated, dropping Froome for a moment. While the defending champ came back as the pace slowed, it showed Froome was nearly done, and that was all the encouragement that Tom Dumoulin needed to finish him off. Dumoulin attacked, taking Roglic and Thomas with him, as Froome, Landa and Kruiswijk could no longer hold the pace.
Ahead, Quintana continued to maintain his gap to the line, winning alone. It’s a redemptive win for the Colombian, who has been far from his best in this year’s Tour but could step onto the podium with a strong performance in the final few days here.
Martin finished second, while Geraint Thomas extended his lead by taking a few seconds over Roglic and Dumoulin in the final few hundred metres. Froome finished eighth, 48 seconds behind Thomas.
The Movers and Shakers
Team Sky’s leadership problem has been decided finally, with Thomas outlasting Froome. Everyone’s been waiting for Froome to fall off a cliff from the fatigue accumulated in the Giro, and it’s finally happened as even Egan Bernal was waiting up for him. Now, all that stands between Thomas and his maiden win is the final mountain stage on Friday – it’s hard to see anything but a bad day causing him to lose 2:00 to Dumoulin
Quintana’s win was well deserved, and frankly, it saves Movistar’s tour. This was on of the high profile stages of the 2018 edition and it’s a big win. He’s still a chance of the podium, but will have to gain time again on Friday.
We also saw another fantastic ride for Primoz Roglic, who keeps surpassing everyone’s expectations (did you know he was a ski jumper?). He’s in fourth place now, only 16 seconds back from Froome now and probably the favourite to finish third, being an excellent time triallist.
The Next Stage
Stage 18 will see a brief respite from the mountains, as the riders take on a mostly flat stage starting in Trie-Sur-Baise and finishing in Pau. There are two Category 4 climbs in the 171km stage, coming after 54km and 153km. With the GC contenders taking a back seat so they can recover for the final mountain stage and the time trial, this one will be handed over to the sprinters
The finish itself will be tricky. There are four roundabouts in the final 5km, a big left-hander with 1200m to go, and a left-hand bend with 500m to go.
Peter Sagan should be the overwhelming favourite here, but he had quite a nasty crash on the last descent, so who knows what sort of condition he will be in. It means one of the lower-level sprinters could be in the hunt. We'll back Alexander Kristoff - with a slight downhill run to the finish, the big man should get a huge gear rolling and be the quickest.
See you back at the social club,