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Tour Stage 17: Epic Stage of Epicness for Epic Feats of Climbing

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La Mure - Serre Chevalier (183 km)

tour de france galibier Michael Steele, AFP/Getty Images

Hello. Have you had enough hyperbole? Excellent. So, yes, this is the latest in this Tour’s collection of mountain stages without a summit finish. It could be argued that this is the queen stage (I wouldn’t necessarily agree with those arguments, but I will admit to their existence) so with the well-known, well-reconned, but no less difficult climbs, mixed with the fact that it’s one of the last two mountain chances, we must expect a big day here.

Carte

Profil de l’étape

The Col d’Ornon is climbed in the first thirty kilometres, but that’s just the appetiser for a day of climbing over two HC climbs and a category one. The first of those HC climbs is the Col de la Croix de Fer (which as you probably remember from 2015, when it was climbed three times, means the Pass of the Iron Cross). A Tour regular, it’s twenty-four irregular kilometres at an average of just around five per cent, but there are flat bits and downhill sections throughout. Truly, the climb has several very steep, leg-sapping kilometres. It’ll really cause a lot of pain quite early in the stage, cutting the GC group down to very few riders.

Then comes the double sucker-punch of the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier.

That, if seen as one entity, is thirty-five kilometres of mostly climbing, with just a five kilometre descent in between the top of the Télégraphe and the start of the Galibier. It’s not as steep as the climbs of the Jura, but it’s so long, so attritional, that surely it must cause a different sort of racing than the Pyrenees did. Right?

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – Les Grangeons de l'Albarine Gamay

A repeat producer, because I wanted to try the Gamay. Because gamay is a very happy grape for me. Think beaujolais, but not the nouveau, but the fuller cru wines. I had this one night with steak and the other with pizza and it worked with both. From the producer: Les Grangeons de l'Albarine Wine estate is composed nowadays of an approx. 5 acres vineyards, located on different sites of Bugey area. A third site is St Sorlin en Bugey , on slopes facing the Rhône valley, with old vines (60 years old) of gamay and altesse. Finally, a last plot is in Ceyzerieu, with 20 years old Maondeuse and Chasselas.

Did you know?

This stage has been retraced over and over again throughout Tour history, so to be honest, you probably did know. This stage skips Alpe d'Huez when it easily could have taken it in, that's the best I've got.

What’s at stake?

It's a late mountain stage in the Tour de France, so of course the yellow jersey is on the line. Chris Froome and Team Sky, of course, currently possess that jersey, with the onus on them to defend it. If they use their usual playbook, we should see their train pulling for the majority of the stage, probably with the hope of still having Kwiatkowski in the peloton at the bottom of the Galibier, with Nieve to pilot Froome most of the way up and Landa to stay until the finish line. An attack from Froome is unlikely, so if Sky will hope to stifle the group with a rapid pace, preventing the race from breaking up properly for pretty much the whole stage.

Who’s going to win?

Hmm, break or GC, break or GC. For me, it has to be the GC group fighting out this stage, just because of the tactics which are likely to play out. If AG2R make a move, the pace is up, the break gets caught. If Sky go quickly enough to stop attacks, we get the same situation as stage 12. Either way, I think the GC group will catch the break on Galibier. From there, it's a very straightforward, non-steep descent to Serre Chevalier. If Froome decides to stick Landa on the front and chase down any moves, we'll have a similar situation to Chambéry. Why not the same winner? Rigoberto Urán.