Having ticked off the third rest day of 2016’s Le Tour de France, the race now enters the first of the final barrage of mountains which stand between the peloton and their annual procession into Paris. By no stretch of the imagination does Stage 17 ease the riders back into the swing of things after their break from the action, serving up a 184.5km trip from Berne to Finhaut-Emosson; an HC summit finish intended to rock the general classification. In total there are four categorised climbs, but much of the day’s focus will be centred upon the final 35km, a brutal transition from Col de la Forclaz to Finhaut-Emosson which could see a rider’s Tour de France slip away from them.
Chris Froome has once again placed the race in a chokehold before the final week has even begun, gaining time in all manner of fashions without even contesting a summit finish such as this yet. Nobody has been able to launch a realistic attack on the Sky captain, let alone actually gain time on mountainous days and much of the same can be expected here. Froome appears to be the strongest climber in this race by far, while his teammates have potentially put in the best Sky performance we have seen at Le Tour de France, ultimately making it tough to see past another victory for the maillot jaune here.
Richie Porte looks to have come closest to matching Chris Froome in the mountains so far, his collision with a motorbike last week somewhat obscuring his performance on that occasion, but he is certainly one of the strongest here. Such a huge day in the saddle after a rest day is always a concern for major general classification contenders, so there are question marks surrounding Porte’s potential performance, though much of the same can be said of all the favourites today. Interestingly, the BMC co-leader has already conceded a relatively large amount of time, so Sky might be happy to conserve energy for this final week by allowing him to gain around a minute or so and the stage win.
Romain Bardet is one of the most aggressive riders among those billed as yellow jersey contenders, but is yet to truly apply pressure to his rivals in this race. The Frenchman has seen his hopes of a podium place slowly diminish, thus might be more inclined to hunt out a stage victory, with today playing to his strengths of descending and steep gradients nicely.
Nairo Quintana looks to be on shaky ground right now and there is great concern as to how well he shall perform in these final stages of Le Tour de France. The Colombian rider would normally be a much more appealing prospect to back on a day such as this, but his recent showings make it tough to believe he shall be able to get the better of his fellow general classification riders.
Given that the following day’s individual time trial shall be hanging over them while attempting t0 measure their efforts on Stage 17, the breakaway and late moves do have a sound chance of making it to the finish first. Riders worth keeping in mind to benefit from a successful attack include; Fabio Aru, Serge Pauwels, Pierre Rolland, Ilnur Zakarin, Rafal Majka and Laurens Ten Dam.
1st Richie Porte 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Romain Bardet