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Tour Stage 17: Alpine Adventures Await

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With a steep climb to finish, this could be a decisive stage.

Criterium du Dauphine - Stage Seven Photo by Kristof Van Accom/Getty Images

Stage 17: Berne - Finhaut-Emosson 184.5 km

Staying in Switzerland for another mountain stage.

What's It About?

Trying out a new mountain stage for the Tour.Well, I say new, the Dauphiné gave it a trial run in 2014, when Lieuwe Westra absolutely mugged the Katusha duo of Yuri Trofimov and Egor Silin in the last kilometre. Then, the Sky train pulled Froome until only just over a kilometre to go, at which point Contador attacked and put time into him. Romain Bardet has called this perhaps the toughest day of the Tour, and the final ascent is a real climber's mountain.

Also, remember when they had that profile of Finhaut-Emosson where they tacked on a 20% section, and removed it after, presumably after a quick recce? I never found out why that was.

AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings

From the importer:

The Caloz family established their domaine in 1960, setting up their home and cellar in the village of Miege which sits midway between the town of Sierre, at the southern end of the Valais, and the famous ski area of Crans-Montana. Fernand Caloz, father of the current proprietaire, began the arduous process of tending the vines in this mountainous region where the vineyards sit on steep terraces and must be worked by hand. Conrad Caloz, son of Fernand, joined by his wife, Anne-Carole, now manages the affairs of this small family domaine

An expression of exuberant wild berries marks the best of the Cornalins produced in the Valais. Again, the exceptional exposure of the “Les Bernunes” vineyard permits the Cornalin grape to ripen well, producing a purple-tinted wine that is vivacious and lightly tannic in the finish.

Food: Challerhocker Cheese

From Cheese.com: Challerhocker, pronounced "holler hocker", meaning "sitting in the cellar" is a Swiss cheese washed in brine and spices and then aged for a minimum of 12 months. Made from thermalized milk, the cheese is dense and smooth without any holes or cracks. The repeated brine washing and extended aging reveal a great depth of flavour and texture unlike any Swiss cheese. Its initial aroma and flavour is a lovely concoction of roasted peanuts, melted leeks, brown butter, sweet cream and caramel. Made by cheesemaker Walter Rass, the lingering silky, salty finish of Challerhocker makes it an ideal cheese for the winter months.

Note: I really, really liked this cheese.

Course Features

You're asking me? Well I'm asking Will.

Forget the official finish name for this stage paid for by the village far below. This Swiss stage features the 5th and 6th toughest climbs in the Tour. It also passes by UCI world headquarters in Aigle. Col de la Forclaz is a scenic but sometimes busy climb linking the Swiss Valais with France in the direction of Chamonix.

What Does Forclaz Mean? There are three Col de la Forclaz in the 2016 Tour. Forclaz is old dialect in the north French Alps meaning "Narrow Gap." I think I've cycled 6 cols with this name, and there are several others without roads in the high mountains. This Forclaz and the Forclaz de Montmin (see below) are the two best on a road bike.

The climb to Emosson is tough, but the reward is the beautiful dam and lake just behind the finish. For the Col hunters in the crowd - the actual finish line should be just a few metres from Col de la Gueulaz.

Stage Steepness Factor: Col de la Forclaz is a very "Swiss" modern road. It smoothly averages 8% with little deviation during its 13 kilometres. But the final climb is more savage, very tough.

Yes, we're still in Switzerland, as the map shows.

Here's the profile. Notice how the start of the stage just has a false flat.

This means a smaller, less threatening break is likely to get away than on the steep slopes of the Col du Berthiand, where it was always going to be the top climbers forming the escape. You shouldn't expect any action before the 150 kilometre mark, but after that it's a very good platform to attack, with no avlley road to discourage a move. The Col de la Forclaz is actually harder than the final climb, but boy do the race organisers love to hand out fifty mountains points to a stage winner.

Riders to Watch

The breakaway's not going to win tomorrow. The KOM hunters will bide their time until there are easier points to get at, and the top climbers will struggle on the long flat section. And anyone who thinks they have a point to prove on the mountains will be willing to chase. That's you Astana, Movistar, AG2R, BMC, Etixx and Orica. Allied with the Sky train, the early move hasn't got a chance.

But the Forclaz is a good place for moves to go. A punchy move at the very top won't be reeled in by the Sky train, and if the attacker can descend well, they could stand a chance of starting the final climb with a decent buffer.

But back in the real world, all the GC men will arrive at the bottom of the final climb, catch any attackers, Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels and probably Geraint Thomas will set an infernal pace, and there'll only be a proper attack when Sky decide there should be. Froome I expect to make a move with a couple of kilometres left. Porte really should be able to hold onto him, from what I've seen, but I don't think Mollema will have the punch. Quintana tends to get better, and now he should be good enough to stick on Froome's wheel. Who'll be the unlucky soul who gets dropped today? I'm inclined to think it will be Yates. Maybe not blown out the back, but I think he'll fall behind a bit.

Pick to Win

Porte. Froome likes him, he needs time, and he's one of the strongest climbers.