Le Tour de France 2020 arrives at its ‘queen stage’ in the final week, with both the overall win and third podium position on a knife’s edge, while plenty of other teams scramble to save their tour by taking a late stage victory.
Stage 17 is a 170km from the tour’s Alpine heart of Grenoble to the summit of Col de la Loze, featuring the fearsome Col de la Madeleine en route, helping to the bring the day’s total climbing to 4430m. Both of these ascents are long in duration and possess extended periods of gradients hovering in and around the double digit mark, making for a hellish day in the saddle; the Col de la Loze even dishing out ramps of 18% – 24% late on.
For many it will be a case of survival, but for those involved with the yellow jersey and the overall podium, it will be an opportunity to overturn deficits or cement leads convincingly.
It will be a day for Primož Roglič to demonstrate the value of possessing a team as powerful as Jumbo-Visma, who are bound to seek to set a pace so intense in the finale, that nobody has a hope of gaining time over the current yellow jersey by attacking. The concluding climb of the day does not truly suit Roglič in a manner to suggest he is poised for stage honours, yet his relatively defensive racing thus far, might prove to have been a foil ahead of a day he knows will be decisive if he can seize the stage with an aggressive performance.
The duration and steep ramps suit the yellow jersey’s compatriot Tadej Pogačar better, who has proven eager to make any possible advantages count and is bound to be seen on the front foot once again here. His greatest concern will be the potential of being isolated early in the day, as beyond the support of David de la Cruz, he is not blessed with much of a team for the high mountains. Able to follow all of Roglič’s attacks so far, then return the favour with more venom, it could be a dominant stage victory for the Tour de France debutant yet again.
Form seems to be appearing late into this Tour de France for Miguel Ángel López, though it may arrive on time for him to take the honours on Stage 17. His late attack yesterday was deserving of a second over the yellow jersey group, despite what the commissaires ruled, showcasing the Colombian’s ability to sense an opportunity and execute it effectively. The length and total altitude of the final climb look favourable, but can his form better those around him?
There is a hint of the best from Enric Mas once more, ahead of a stage which does play to his strengths well, especially given previous performances on similar terrain in the past. He will need to get clear of the yellow jersey group early on the Col de la Loze however, but if he can settle into a suitable tempo and grind through the 18% – 24% ramps late in the day, he has a chance.
The ongoing battle for third place on the podium is also likely to instigate attacks from Adam Yates, Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte and Mikel Landa.
1st Tadej Pogačar 2nd Miguel Ángel López 3rd Primož Roglič