So stage seventeen was, to put it mildly, something else. A huge breakaway, strong crosswinds and a big tailwind for the last sixty kilometres ending in Philippe Gilbert earning the right to tie the ruban jaune to his handlebars. Honestly, I can’t see this new record speed for a race over two hundred kilometres being beaten for a very long time. Even at Paris-Tours you’d need some very favourable circumstances. Sam Bennett missed out on a third victory by a narrow margin but given Quickstep’s riches in that front group, he was always up against it. Nairo Quintana, Wilco Kelderman and James Knox move up the GC but this is not a race that allows you to ease tired legs so it will be interesting to see if they can hold on to their gains.
Looking at the preview, I find it hard to look past a breakaway win. It’s pretty much exactly the same stage as the one on which Fabio Aru won the Vuelta in 2015 and the break couldn’t be controlled that day, Ruben Plaza winning solo.
The climbs are numerous, but not especially steep. Hence, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific place where the GC battle will kick off. This is the biggest mountain stage left and is as such the best place to try something, but it is not Los Machucos where there is an obvious place to go hell for leather. The number of climbs suggest that causing chaos from early on might be a good idea but Jumbo-Visma do not look weak in any way, certainly not weak enough that a tired Movistar unit could dispose of them. Hence, it looks like a day for the attackers where the winner does not have to be the best climber. The final climb is not steep and the skills to navigate the descent and slightly uphill finish may be more important. I’m going with Gianluca Brambilla. In GC, I don’t expect too much to happen in terms of shifts in GC. Some of the guys who made the most effort today might regress a bit, as is to be expected.