A stage split in two, stage 17 started with a time trial to the sprint point for the Green Jersey, and finished with a time trial over the Galibier for the stage win.
Thomas Boudat started the attacks out of La Mure, with a very active peloton on his tail. Tiago Machado tried his luck solo as well, but couldn’t get away. Gautier, Chavanel, De Marchi, Arashiro, Atapuma, De Gendt – everyone tried to go solo but were reeled in by the other attackers. However, after a crash in the peloton on the Col d’Ornon between Cummings, Kittel and Barguil, a split in the peloton formed and 33 riders made a break. Kittel and Barguil were forced to get bike changes, but were escorted by their teams back to the peloton.
On the Col d’Ornon, the 33 riders up front found some co-ordination, but some riders were really going for the KoM points. Thomas De Gendt, Michael Matthews, Serge Pauwels and Primoz Roglic all wanted the points, but a crash for Roglic put him out of contention on the climb. Matthews, with a Geschke-assisted leadout, got around De Gendt in the sprint and took out 5 points. Matthews and De Gendt continued their sprint after the climb though, breaking clear of the rest of the break as the intermediate sprint approached. Back in the peloton, they let the gap go out while riders re-joined after the crash, and with no big names up front the GC teams weren’t too concerned about time gaps.
Matthews and De Gendt time trialled their way to Allemont for the intermediate sprint, with the Lotto Soudal rider working for the Australian targeting Green. De Gendt allowed Matthews to sprint for maximum points, slashing Marcel Kittel’s lead in the competition to just 9 points. Their gap to the peloton and the break kept on rising as the Col de la Croix started, with the duo getting over a minute on the 31-man group and 5 minutes on the peloton. Alexander Kristoff, back in the peloton, took a tumble in a corner before the sprint point, but wasn’t injured.
On the Col de la Croix, Nairo Quintana started the attacks from the peloton, but was reeled in as quickly as riders were falling out the back. Contador launched the second attack just after Nairo re-joined, and Nairo followed. Contador initially waited for the Colombian, but Quintana didn’t have the legs to follow and eventually Contador went solo to bridge to the break. Quintana fell back into the peloton, and fell out the back shortly after. From the break, Dani Navarro went solo to bridge to the front two, and with 8km left on the 24km climb he caught De Gendt and Matthews. Their gap at the front was falling slowly as the climb got harder, with Matthews getting dropped by De Gendt and Navarro.
Thomas de Gendt went solo for the points on the HC Climb, and with Navarro un-interested in challenging the Belgian he was able to take the 20 points easily. The break and peloton were split on the climbs - Contador and his team mate Mollema put the hammer down on the climb after he made the bridge, and formed a select group of riders to chase the two leaders. Primoz Roglic, Serge Pauwels, Brice Feillu and Darwin Atapuma all featured in that group, and Roglic put himself on the front to contest the points for 3rd. There were two big abandons as well – Thibaut Pinot and Green Jersey wearer, Marcel Kittel. Pinot had been weak for most of the race, while Kittel was suffering after his earlier crash and couldn’t survive a day in the mountains.
Trek put themselves on the front of the break with Contador in the group, while Team Sky led the peloton as the riders transitioned between the Col de la Croix and the Col du Galibier. However, it was not all smooth sailing for either group, with Contador having a mechanical and requiring a bike change, and Team Sky using up many riders before the biggest climb of this year’s Tour. Before the Col du Galibier the Col de la Croix though is the Cat 1 Col du Telegraphe. The break had dwindled to 12 riders by the Col du Telegraphe, and Bauke Mollema led Contador up the climb. However, as the summit approached, Primoz Roglic put himself on the front to collect the points and try and catch Barguil in the KoM classification, and got 10 points on the top of the Cat 1.
There was no relief between the Col du Telegraphe and the Col du Galibier, with the riders starting it immediately after summitting the Telegraphe. Once again, Primoz Roglic went on the attack, but this time it was at the base of the climb. Only 4 others joined the Slovenian – Contador, Atapuma, Frank and Pauwels. Dani Navarro put in another bridge however and made it 6 out the front, but as soon as Navarro joined the break started attacking each other. Serge Pauwels was the first to launch with 8km to go, but was marked by Roglic. Roglic, after catching Pauwels, went solo from the group with 5km to go, and this time no one could follow his wheel. Mathias Frank was put into trouble and was dropped, and the break was split into pieces. Atapuma went solo in pursuit of Roglic, but was never able to chase him down.
In the peloton, the fireworks started with 5km to go. Dan Martin launched the first attack, but was marked by Chris Froome. Bardet attacked after Martin was reeled in, and Froome and Uran chased. Fabio Aru was distanced by the leaders and was yo-yoing between attacks. Meintjes and Yates were also duelling it out, marking each other’s attacks and just trying to hang onto the rest of the GC contenders. Bardet kept attacking just as the bunch came together, and eventually created a reasonable gap between Bardet / Froome / Uran and Aru / Yates / Meintjes / Martin. Primoz Roglic up front soloed for the 20 points and the Souvenir Henri-Desgrange on the Galibier. Barguil also attacked from the Froome Group to get 3rd on the climb, and all but secure his KoM Jersey. Roglic had 1’30” on the Froome Group as the descent started, with the rest of the breakaway all but gone.
The descent saw three races going on at once. Roglic was going for the win solo, the Aru Group was trying to re-join the Froome Group, while inside the Froome Group, Bardet was trying to go solo to get a time gap. The time gaps to the front stayed stable the whole way down the blistering descent, but Aru’s group was getting distanced further and further. No one was able to catch the flying Slovenian however, and he took a glorious solo descent victory into Serre-Chevalier. 1’13” back though, Froome, Uran and Bardet were sprinting for the bonus seconds on offer. Romain Bardet went first, but faded as the line approached. Chris Froome charged late, but Uran was able to hold on for 2nd and leap frog Bardet to take 2nd in GC. The Aru group finished a further 31 seconds back, meaning that Aru falls off the podium for now with one more mountain stage to come.
Tomorrow sees the riders tackle one more mountain stage in the Alps, with a mountain top finish into Izoard. This will be the second-last GC deciding stage, with one more time trial to come in Marseille. This has been the tightest Tour in years, and so much is yet to be decided.