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Tour: Zakarin Takes Off for Stage Win; Quintana and Mollema Suffer

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Guess what happened in the peloton?

Le Tour de France 2016 - Stage Seventeen
Helped over the line...
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Ilnur Zakarin tasted disappointment in the Alps of the Giro, but he made up for that in the Tour, riding up to Rafał Majka and Jarlinson Pantano's attack, and in short order disappearing up the road himself, in what is truly a great time for Russian sport. (It is, isn't it?) Behind, the GC race stayed together until they reached the shadow of the Flamme Rouge, thanks to more dominance from Sky, aided by Astana.

The break had a very tough time getting away, with fifty-two kilometres covered in the first hour, and an escape only forming when they reached the categorised climbs. After that, they quickly got an unassailable advantage, twelve minutes by the time the peloton started the first climb of the day's finale, the Col de Forclaz. On that climb, Sky vied for the front of the peloton with Movistar's Winner Anacona, who rode for a few kilometres, dropped one or two of his own team mates, and was promptly dropped himself. Astana then took over the work with Vincenzo Nibali, but nobody attacked, or even looked like doing so. In fact, the most notable event on the climb was Tejay van Garderen proving that he didn't have a bad day on Sunday by showing that him getting dropped would be a regular occurrence.

Alexey Lutsenko had a go in the break, but he never had a chance, and Pantano and Majka's move on the descent of the Forclaz made it look like we were headed for another battle between the pair. However, Zakarin subsequently engaged the turbo boosters and jumped clear, catching them and dropping them, getting a gap of thirty seconds and increasing it to the line. I'm not exaggerating when I say that one of the most exciting events of the stage was Zakarin's battle with his zip when he tried to show off the names of his sponsorts crossing the line. He nearly came to a standstill on the double-digit gradient, riding with his hands off the bars in what is perhaps the biggest display of professionalism I have ever seen.

But back in the peloton, Diego and the Skytrains were in full swing, with Rosa charging up the climb on the front, giving semi-literally every ounce of energy for his team leader Aru, who attacked proceeded to stay in the peloton as Wout Poels took over the pace. Alejandro Valverde had a go halfaway up the climb, in an attempt to set up Quintana, but it failed terribly. He was caught and spat out the back. Then it was Dan Martin's turn to go, the attacking rider was no doubt frustrated by the controlled pace and had a go, but Sky held him at twenty metres before engaging the tractor beam.

It looked for a while like the GC men would just roll in together, but Richie Porte finally put in an acceleration in the penultimate kilometre, which forced gaps in the peloton. Dan Martin was the first to be detached, no doubt regretting his aggression, a sentence it is painful, but true to write. Bauke Mollema was second to drop off, the man in second losing out in the final week as he has in the past. Nairo Quintana attempted to go with Chris Froome when he went to join Porte, but he simply couldn't stick the pace and was then dropped from a chase group that formed of Adam Yates, Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru and Louis Meintjes. Yates was the next strongest after Froome and Porte, attacking and nearly reaching the wheel of Froome. Wout Poels is the day's star, he followed all the attacks, rode on the front for a substantial period of time, and still came in seventeenth, only just after Quintana.

Stage Results:
1. RUS Ilnur Zakarin KAT 4:36:33
2. COL Jarlinson Pantano IAM 0:55
3. POL Rafał Majka TNK 1:26
4. CRO Kristijan Durasek LAM 1:32
5. FRA Brice Feillu FVC 2:33
6. FRA Thomas Voeckler DEN 2:46
7. ITA Domenico Pozzovivo ALM 2:50
8. NED Stef Clement IAM 2:57
9. SUI Steve Morabito FDJ 4:38
10. AUS Richie Porte BMC 7:59
General Classification:
1. GBR Chris Froome SKY 77:25:10
2. NED Bauke Mollema TFS 2:27
3. GBR Adam Yates OBE 2:53
4. COL Nairo Quintana MOV 3:27
5. FRA Romain Bardet ALM 4:15
6. AUS Richie Porte BMC 4:27
7. ESP Alejandro Valverde MOV 5:19
8. ITA Fabio Aru AST 5:35
9. IRE Daniel Martin EQS 5:50
10. RSA Louis Meintjes LAM 6:07