Simon Geschke of Giant Alpecin soloed to his first Tour de France stage victory on the first day in The Alps. Making his move before the second last climb of the day, he built a steady advantage and withstood challenges from Andrew Talansky and Thibaut Pinot to record the 3rd victory of his career. In the battle for the Overall Classification, Tejay van Garderen withdrew from the Tour during today’s stage, after falling sick yesterday. Alberto Contador crashed and lost time on his rivals, jeopardizing the chances of an 8th Grand Tour success.
After a day of much-needed rest, stage 17 was the first proper stage in the Alps, a 161km long route from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup. 5 categorized climbs exist : Two-Category 3, Two-Category 2 and the toughest climb of the day being a Category 1 climb. The Col D’Allos (the Category 1 climb) is a 14km long climb but has an average gradient of 5.5%, making it a bit easier in comparison to other similar climbs. The intermediate sprint takes place at the 111km mark before the last 2 climbs. The stage will finish with a category 2 climb to the end line at 1620m.
Once again, Sagan was in the thick of the action for the 4th consecutive day. However, the real surprise came when 3rd place overall, Tejay van Garderen dropped off the peloton on the first climb. Despite pacing himself back in, he could not go further and withdrew 70.5kms from the finish. The rider was inconsolable as he had high hopes and was in a strong position for a podium finish at Paris. The stage today, including Tejay and non-starter, Laurent Didier, saw a total of 6 riders withdraw from the Tour. This included 2014 World Champion, Michal Kwiatkowski as well. 35 of the 198 riders have withdrawn from the Tour.
The Break consisted of 28 riders. Sky, Astana, Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff all had members in this group. When the intermediate sprint came, John Degenkolb took maximum points as Sagan finished 3rd, little consequence since he had won the points classification. Once again MTH-Qhubeka, a wildcard team, had 3 members in this break. The African team has undoubtedly declared themselves as a force to be reckoned with as they stand 2nd in the Team positions.
50kms from the finish, Geschke made his move. There were challenges including Pinot, Talansky and Tehklehaimont. Pinot, determined to redeem himself this tour, crashed on the downhill descent and that must have knocked the confidence out of him as he was soon passed by Uran and Talansky. Despite the valiant efforts by the American rider, he was unable to catch Geschke.
Back at the Yellow Jersey group, riders started to drop as Nibali set the pace on the ascent. Making his move which was matched by his rivals, they began a downhill descent on the Col D’Allos. As Quintana and Valverede attacked 15 kms to go, they caught up with Richie Porte of Sky who managed to control the pace. It seems the teams had their men out in the breakaways to support the late charges of their leaders. 9.5kms from the finish, Contador crashed. Even though Sagan and Rogers were there, the team car was way back and the bike change took a bit longer than expected. This cost him over 2 minutes on his rivals as he struggled to ride back alone.
The final climb saw Quintana attack but was matched by Froome. However, they gained 15 seconds on Nibali and a little over 2 minutes on Contador who had been leap-frogged by Froome’s teammate, Geraint Thomas. Team Sky now occupy 1st and 4th overall and Movistar 2nd and 3rd.
The General Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
The King of the Mountains Classification Top 20
Tomorrow will be a brutal day for the riders in the Alps. 7 categorized climbs including a Hors Category expect Quintana to really have a crack at Froome. Do not count Saxo Tinkoff out as they might even consider making a massive attack tomorrow as Contador could look to regain lost time. With Sagan, Rogers, Majka still in, it’s possible.
Team Sky and Movistar will no doubt keep most of their riders around their leader as they are ready to battle for the next 3 days.
Editor : Akanksha Agarwal