Stage 17 is set to be a huge day in the battle for the yellow jersey with Primoz Roglic retaining his lead but finding it difficult to shake off his Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar who sits just 40 seconds behind. The biggest news has been the withdrawal of reigning champion Egan Bernal due to a back and knee injury.
“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” the Team Ineos Grenadiers rider said. “I have the greatest respect for this race, and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”
The Colombian’s withdrawal puts the stage win up for contention with today’s 170km race from Grenoble to Meribel – widely known as the queen stage of the Tour – including two hors catégorie climbs with the toughest uphill finish of the race, the Col de la Loze.
The peloton have a big obstacle to overcome first though with the gruelling climb to Col de La Madeleine of 17.1km at 8.4%. Twenty King of the Mountains points are up for grabs making it a very important climb in the fight for the polka-dot jersey, as well as a crucial moment for the general classification leaders. Roglic will hope to further his lead in this climb, while Pogacar may use it as a chance to put the yellow jersey rider under pressure.
After cresting the top, the peloton have a narrow, steep and fairly technical descent of 25km which could make the difference with a breakaway, before facing “the crazy hard finale” of Col de la Loze, as Roglic described it yesterday after stage 16.
The 22.2km climb averages a 7.6% gradient to reach the highest point in the race, but it will be the final 5km that will do the real damage. The last 3km features a 24% hairpin bend to take the riders to the final finish with a peak section of 18%.
It will be a difficult day for most of the peloton as riders will have to be mentally as well as physically tough to take on these two mountains. There is expected to be plenty of big gaps on the GC, but it could be another showdown for the riders as seen in stage 15; perhaps with another uphill sprint battle between Roglic and Pogacar. These two are the key contenders for the stage finish as well as the yellow jersey, with the dominant Jumbo-Vista supporting the GC leader. However, both are marked men now and are sure to face a strong fight.
The stage is scheduled to start at 11.15am BST (12.15pm local time).
How to watch
Stage seventeen will be broadcast live in the UK on Eurosport 1 .
The finish today could be in a breakaway or a group finish, so it really is anyone’s win. The underdog of the stage looks to be Pierre Rolland who sits second in the climber rankings and is well-suited to this kind of finish if he can get himself in a good position, or perhaps Warren Barguil whose experience and stamina could be crucial if there are consecutive breaks throughout the day. However, Roglic has his fierce Jumbo-Vista teammates to help him retain his yellow jersey, but with the young Pogacar hot on his tail, it is without a doubt that the demanding mountainous stage will have a special and talented rider as its winner.
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