126km to go: With Jumbo-Visma patrolling the front of a peloton that seems content to let the breakaway go, the leading quintet have more than doubled their lead to 2min 36sec after Primoz Roglic stopped for a pee and the peloton slowed down to wait for him. Daryl Impey is still caught in no-man’s land between the two groups, one minute behind the leaders.
130km to go: Our five-man breakaway is a minute in front of the peloton, with Daryl Impey on the road between the two groups, about 28seconds behind the lead quintet.
131km to go: Pierre Rolland’s attack comes to nothing but now Daryl Impey from Mitchelton-Scott is attempting to bridge the gap.
136km to go: Level on points at the top of the King of the Mountains classification, Pierre Rolland attacks off the front of the peloton.
140km to go: A group of five riders have opened a lead of 24 seconds over the peloton. They are Richard Carapaz, yesterday’s stage winner Lennard Kamna, Julian Alaphilippe, Dan Martin and Gorka Izaguirre. Several other riders are trying to bridge the gap from the bunch.
142km to go: The riders are currently tackling a fairly tough but unclassified climb. Peter Sagan could try something here with the intermediate sprint looming once they get over this hill. For the time being, Bennett is glued to Sagan’s back wheel. Not literally, I hasten to add. That would impair both their chances.
143km to go: Thomas De Gendt has been caught and another group of riders are attempting to escape the peloton, who are keeping them on a tight rein.
An email: “This makes perfect sense,” writes Chris Hughes of Stefan Kung’s withdrawal. “As not only does the time trial on stage 20 feature a summit finish which rules out the TT specialists, the prestige of winning the World Champs is very high as you get to wear the Rainbow jersey for the entire year in TT’s. Also the course is apparently very flat which suits the specialists.”
Geraint Thomas has also announced he will take place in the time trial at Imola, but will not take part in the World Championship road race, as it’s too close to the beginning of the Giro d’Italia.
151km to go: Thomas De Gendt has attacked off the front of the peloton and opened a gap of 16 seconds.
159km to go: The peloton remains intact, which affords us time to focus on the King of the Mountains contest, which may well be settled today. Despite not winning any points since before the first rest day, Benoit Cosnefroy somehow remains in the polka-dot jersey. He’s level on points with Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept), but keeps the iconic shirt because he’s crested more category one climbs. First and second on GC, Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar are also in the mix for King of the Mountains.
More on Stefan Kung’s withdrawal: According to Eurosport, the Swiss rider has simply withdrawn from the race to go and prepare for the World Time Trial championship in Imola later this month.
Somebody who knows more about cycling than me might mail in and let me know why he would do such a thing, when Saturday’s stage 20 is an an individual time trial. Something to do with the fact that it ends on a category one climb, perhaps?
168km to go: Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis), Krists Neilands (Israel Start-up Nation) and Thomas De Gent (Lotto-Soudal) try to get away, but Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett try to close down their attack.
Bennett is currently in the green jersey, with Sagan desperate to win it back. Sagan is unlikely to claw too many points back today as the stage is fairly flat until the intermediate sprint in about 40 kilometres time. The battle for the green jersey is likely to go all the way to Paris, where Bennett will be favourite to win it … assuming he makes it that far.
They’re racing on stage 17: On a stage with two climbs that last more than an hour each, they’re off and racing. A couple of riders from Israel Start-up Nation and Cofidis attack from the gun. Needless to say, Lotto-Soudal rider and breakaway king Thomas De Gendt is also involved in the early attempt at a breakaway.
More on Stefan Kung’s withdrawal: It seems the Swiss rider finished outside the time limit for yesterday’s stage and his absence today is enforced, rather than voluntary.
Off they go: The 152-strong peloton begins it’s roll-out from Grenoble, in a procession that will last about six kilometres before they’re given the signal to begin racing.
Primoz Roglic on yesterday and today’s stages: “It was a good day for us, again in yellow,” said the race leader. “The start of the stage was very fast and we had to keep our focus on [so the race didn’t get out of control]. There are some big days to come.
The team is doing a really good job so far, so we are ready and looking forward to the final days of the Tour de France. Tomorrow is this year’s queen stage.
“The final climb is the highest point of the route, and its last kilometres are very hard ones, as we have to ride a steep bike path. We’ve reckoned the climb – and I’ve also gone to the other side, the ski jumping hills in Courchevel.
“With 15 days on the legs, the terrain doesn’t matter that much. Flat, uphill – it’s the same. It’s about having the legs, and I hope to have them and do well tomorrow.”
Tadej Pogacar on yesterday and today’s stages: “I tried to steal some seconds [on the final climb], but it was not the best situation,” said the Slovenian, who is second on GC behind his compatriot Primoz Roglic.
“I didn’t have super explosive legs today. Anyway, it was a good warm-up for tomorrow, the queen stage of the race. I think everyone has gone to see the Col de la Loze. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done.
“You can kill yourself if you try too early – you might suffer all the way to the finish. I will see how the others feel on the way to the Col de la Loze … and, on the final section, we will see who has the legs and who doesn’t.
“There will be gaps and a mix-up on the GC. We see everyone is exhausted, that day by day the legs are getting more and more tired. I hope to have something left on my legs.”
Another withdrawal: Egan Bernal wasn’t the only high profile rider to abandon overnight. Groupama-FDJ breakaway and time trial specialist Stefan Kung has also withdrawn from the race, for reasons that – as yet – remain unclear. That brings the number of withdrawals in this year’s Tour to 24 riders, leaving 152 still in the race.
More on Stage 17 …
“Both Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar who occupy the first two places of the overall classification spoke about stage 17 as the queen stage of this year’s Tour de France,” report the Tour organisers.
“They’ve recced the unprecedented uphill to Col de la Loze. After the lockdown period, the Jumbo-Visma team made Tignes their permanent training camp, so it wasn’t far for Roglic to go to col de la Loze several times. It’s a fairly new road. It’s actually a ski slope that has been recently asphalted for mountain bikes to go from Méribel to Courchevel and vice versa.
“One year ago, young Australian Alexander Evans, now riding for Circus-Wanty Gobert, won stage 8 of the Tour de l’Avenir from Brides-les-Bains to Méribel/Col de la Loze. It’s extremely steep!
“The last five kilometres promise a fierce battle between Roglic and Pogacar. Stage hunters will have the gruelling climb to col de la Madeleine to make a difference before “the crazy hard finale”, as Roglic described it yesterday after stage 16.”
Egan Bernal withdraws from the Tour
The big news from France today is that reigning champion and Team Ineos Grenadiers rider Egan Bernal has abandoned the Tour. The 23-year-old Colombian had been in contention until losing over seven minutes on Sunday’s stage to the Grand Colombier and lost more time after finishing well down the field yesterday.
He had seemed in good spirits, however, at one point asking a team-mate who was on a fetch-and-carry mission to the team car for drinks to bring him back a mojito.
Bernal had voiced his intention to make it to Paris “out of respect for the race”, but his team announced this morning he would be taking no further part.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” said his sporting director, David Brailsford. “Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”
Bernal, who began the race with a back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Critérium du Dauphiné last month, had played down the extent of his injury, but yesterday told reporters his knee was now affected.
“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,” he said. “I have the greatest respect for this race and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”
Stage 16 recap
Lennard Kämna won the stage, Primoz Roglic stayed in yellow and Ineos team boss David Brailsford claimed his decision to leave Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome out of his Tour de France team was a good one.
The top 10 on General Classification
Primoz Roglic remains in the lead but is finding it difficult to shake off his young Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar.
Stage 17: Grenoble to Méribel col de la Loze (168km)
From William Fotheringhamn’s stage by stage guide: The toughest uphill finish of the race, 2,304m above sea level after 21.5km climbing, with gradients of 20%. The final pecking order should be all but settled here. The initial sort-out will come on the super-category Col de la Madeleine
. [Narrator’s voice: “Not any more, it doesn’t – first Mollema, now Bernal – the curse of Fotheringham strikes for the second consecutive day.”]
, and the finish has Bernal written all over it
- Today’s roll-out is at 11.15am (BST)