Stage 17 of the Tour de France was one for the breakaway. The 206-kilometer route across southeast France and up to the foothills of the Alps contained two classified climbs, but the terrain wasn’t difficult enough for the overall contenders to duke it out amongst themselves. Plus, there are three energy-sapping days in the mountains ahead.
On top of that, today was the final chance for success and publicity among all of the teams who haven’t really accomplished anything yet in this Tour. Which is partially why the group that finally escaped from the peloton early in the stage was so huge – 35 riders from 17 different teams. Of those, 26 rode for teams without a win so far. Over half of the Cofidis and UAE teams were there. There were small teams like Wanty-Groupe Gobert, and bigger teams like Astana and Ag2r, whose ambitions for overall victory have disappeared over the last two weeks.
The only teams not in the breakaway were those of the big contenders (Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, and Groupama) and – curiously – two of the smallest teams: Arkea-Samsic and Total-Direct Energie, the latter of whom is at the absolute bottom of the barrel in terms of podium positions, jersey points, and prize money in this year’s Tour. As an apparent penalty for having missed the boat, the riders of the two tiny French teams were forced to ride hard at the front of the peloton to try to chase it down.
The chase would be futile, however. As the breakaway’s gap grew, the peloton began to ease, and as everyone rolled through the sweltering heat of summer, the distance between the two groups only grew. With 50 kilometers to go, they were separated by almost 15 minutes.
The stage victory would clearly come to the breakaway riders, then, and with 35 kilometers to go they began to put in small accelerations, steadily winnowing their ranks. But only one such acceleration would count in the end. With 14 kilometers to go – and the final, third-category climb still to come – Matteo Trentin set off on his own, and the rest were unable to chase. Eventually, Pierre-Luc Périchon would go after him, and Kasper Asgreen would go after him, but Trentin powered up the climb, and no one could catch him on the downhill run into the town of Gap.
Trentin crossed the line with plenty of time to celebrate his Mitchelton-Scott team’s fourth stage win of this year’s Tour, while the riders of the winless teams slowly filtered in over the next several minutes, in evident frustration. Meanwhile, the peloton rolled in a full 20 minutes behind Trentin, content to save their energy for the mountains.
Tomorrow’s 18th stage is a doozy, with four official climbs – three of them over 2,000 meters in elevation, and two of them classified as “beyond category.”
|3||Greg Van Avermaet||+00:00:41|
|6||Gorka Izaguirre Insausti||+00:00:41|
|8||Pierre Luc Perichon||+00:00:50|
|10||Jesus Herrada Lopez||+00:00:55|
|5||Egan Arley Bernal Gomez||+00:02:02|
|7||Mikel Landa Meana||+00:04:54|
|9||Rigoberto Uran Uran||+00:05:33|