The Tour comes back after the second rest day and the riders face quite a nasty stage, spent entirely in Switzerland. Join our expert capper for analysis and betting picks.
Tour de France Stage 17- Berne to Finhaut-Emosson, 184kms
This is going to be a very interesting stage - I wouldn't be surprised to see a massive battle for the first 50kms or so to try to get in the break of the day, there will be plenty of guys who will have an interest in getting in the break, having spent the whole of the rest day thinking about it and planning it. Also, there will be some who didn't have to do anything in the TT, nor in the sprint finish of the previous two stages, so will effectively have been taking it easy for the last three days and will be full of energy.
The stage is similar to a key stage in the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné won by Astana's Liuewe Westra, who came out of nowhere to catch the two exhausted Katusha boys Silin and Trofimov in the last 600m (above) for a stunning win, but it was what went on behind him which was significant for this stage. Alberto Contador attacked with 1800m to go, just as they caught Hesjedal who had been in the break of the day.
In an explosive out-of-the-saddle attack he left Froome floundering, with Richie Porte trying vainly to pull Froome after Contador. Porte dragged him to the 1km to go flag and Froome took over, his acceleration saw to Nibali, but Talansky and Hesjedal stayed close, and in fact, as Froome died in the last 500m both Talansky and Hesjedal came back to him and passed him. (right)
After leaving Berne, the first 55kms are relatively flat, if rising gently all the while. Shortly after Boltingen they start on the Côte de Saanenmoser, a Cat 3 gentle climb that kicks things off. 6.6kms at 4.8% isn't too difficult and it's likely that the peloton will ride up it at a pretty steady pace. A little descent, a run along the plateau past Rougemont and they start the climb of the Col des Mosses, another Cat 3 climb which is 6.4kms at 4.4%.
Only a few kilometres later and they are on to the foot of the penultimate climb, the Cat 1 Col de Forclaz. This is twice as long as the preceding climbs at 13kms in length, and also steeper at 7.9% average, but it's a very steady 7.9% with barely a change in the gradient all the way up.
A very fast and twisty descent takes them to the foot of the final climb to Finhaut Emosson. This is a very hard finish to the stage, 10.4kms at 8.4%, but the lower 4kms at just under 7% and it gets steeper and harder as it approaches the top, with the last 3kms averaging over 10% and the last 400m averaging 12.3%, a very hard finish to the stage as you could see in the video above, Froome was out on his feet as he crossed the line.
Contenders and Favourites
The break will go, but I honestly don't think the break has a great chance of staying away today. Today looks like a day where the other GC men really need to go at Froome, and as a result, this could be a very fast stage from start to finish. Froome's rivals are running out of time to challenge him and this double ascension to the finish is a perfect opportunity for them to test him and Sky.
If Valverde, Tejay or even Aru attack on the Forcloz we could see Sky put under real pressure and they could lose some support riders. Either that or a couple of guys protecting top tens in the GC could go after them and form a strong group. If Valverde can get 2 or 3 strong guys with him, with maybe 1 or 2 teammates up the road to help them, then Sky will have to respond. They can't let the likes of Valverde, Bardet or Aru back into the race with three tough stages to come.
This sort of finish you'd think would be perfect for Nairo Quintana though. That is, the Quintana we would like to see and the Quintana we think he is, and not the limp, frail looking Quintana we have seen so far, that was left behind on Ventoux by Froome's surges. Maybe he is gambling it all on the Alps, but if he is, he has left himself a literal and metaphorical mountain to climb. Does he go early? Does he try to strip Froome of all his support early on on the Forclaz and then go again on the climb to the finish? He really needs to show something I think, or it's all over for him. +600 for the first four places with Corals might be ok, there might be one or two solo riders out front, or maybe Froome and he could chase them home.
Chris Froome of course could ride away from all of these guys, as he looks like he could do whenever he wants. He is just +250 for the stage, but honestly, I can't be backing him at that price given how he performed on this climb last time around. Sky have still got all nine riders left though which will be a huge help to him, but it's unlikely they will be put to work much until the Forclaz. Stannard and Rowe may tow them along for a while, but it could be up to Trek, Movistar, BMC and Astana to do the driving for most of the stage.
Richie Porte has to try to get time back, there is a podium spot there for the taking if he can carry on attacking and pushing like he did on Ventoux. He looks like the only one, along with Mollema who is capable of attacking and getting away from Froome. The way he was going on Ventoux, I think he is capable of putting Froome under pressure on this climb, he is similar to Contador in size and attacking ability when at the top of his game, and I think he is absolutely at the top of his game, he looks in fantastic shape.
He was straight on Froome's wheel on Ventoux and looked very comfortable. He was powering up the hill when he hit the motorbike, but we'll never know if he'd have stretched away from Froome as he smashed in to it. Let's just hope he didn't injure himself in doing it, but it sounds like he is alright. The +800 looks ok to me, I think he could top 3 it here.
Bauke Mollema of course could be right in the mix too and we could finally get to see if he really is capable of delivering on the promise that so many of us are hoping on.. We'd all like to see the race become a contest for the last few days and Mollema is obviously in prime spot to do so, being the closest to Froome. It's going to be a big ask to pull back nearly two minutes, but a 30" gap and a 10" bonus would be a good start. I have a feeling though that he could be 3rd or 4th out of the top guys though, so the +1200 with Coral sounds alright, but I'm just not convinced..
Adam Yates was struggling a little on the Colombiers, hanging in at the back of the leading group, but he hung in there. I keep thinking he's going to crack soon and this could be the climb to do it. I hope he doesn't, it would be great to see him win it, but I think he is due a bad day, and a bad day on this finish could lose a lot of time - he lost 1'20" to Froome in the Dauphiné.
We could have a similar situation to the last stage to Culoz though as well here where a very strong break of riders go away and may go on to contest the finish.
Ilnur Zakarin was desperately unlucky for us on stage 15, he was right in the mix and should maybe have been fighting out the finish for a place for us at least, but he lost a contact lens and couldn't see where he was going.. an incredible way to lose a bet. He is still looking for that victory for the new baby so maybe this could be the stage.. The 22/1 with Corals paying 4 places is worth taking.
Sebastien Reichenbach was 10th in the stage in the Criterium in 2014 when just 25 years old, he's two years older now and seems to be riding really well. He was on the attack with Zakarin and Majka on the stage to Culoz, but the guy just can't descend! He lost all chance of the stage win as he kept getting dropped on the tricky descent from the Grand Colombier. On home soil, likely to try to get in the break again, and this time the descent off the Forclaz isn't as tricky so he might do better. At +5000 he has to be considered, especially with the books paying 4 or 5 places, only Corals at the moment, but more might go that way tonight.
Julian Alaphilippe has been on the attack for the last two stages, seems to be full of energy.. will he try again after the rest day? It's very likely he will be in the break, but you'd think if there's strong climbers in the break too he'd suffer a little towards the end of the stage, it's a brutal final climb. Rui Costa always goes well in Switzerland - three-time winner of the Tour of Switzerland, five-time stage winner, he looked to be stretching his legs in the final stages of the stage to Bern, attacking on his own, I think he hoped for some guys to go with him, but just kept going anyway. He will probably get in the break of the day, and the +3300 on him is tempting, but I think he might suffer on the last climb if there are stronger climbers with him.
Jarlinson Pantano, Rafal Majka, Thomas de Gendt, Daniel Navarro, Serge Pauwels - all could go on the attack again, they seem up for it at the moment, and Majka will look to cement his lead in the KOM competition.. He could push hard on the Forclaz to take the Cat 1 points if it's looking unlikely they'll fight out the finish.
It's also likely we will see Astana, BMC, Movistar and Sky try to get someone in the break, to help out later on, so expect to see the likes of Diego Rosa, Tanel Kangert, Amael Moinard, Michael Schar, Winner Anacona, Emanol Erviti and maybe Mikel Landa possibly go on the attack too. None of which are looking overly strong, but might have a good day and if the gap gets a big enough lead they might make it in the top 5.
I think though that there will be a big battle between the break and the GC men - I think the pace is going to be really high all day in the peloton so the lead might not get above 6 or 7 minutes.
So - the break has a chance, maybe 30% I think, so we'll have a few guys for that. Of the GC men, Froome probably wins for betting pick, but he's too short to get me interested, instead, I like Quintana e/w with betting odds at +600 and Richie at +800, they could well be the first three home. And if Froome cracks then maybe Quintana and Porte will get back in the race. Mollema, Bardet, and Yates won't be far behind though maybe.
0.3pts each-way on Sebastien Reichenbach at +5000 with Corals paying 4 places
1pt each-way on Richie Porte at +800 with various, look to see if some go 4 or 5 places later, otherwise take 3 places
0.5pts each-way on Nairo Quintana at +600 with various
0.5pts each-way on Ilnur Zakarin at +2200 with Corals paying 4 places
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