Stage 17: Embrun to Chorges, 32km individual time trial
Under attack from the Spanish Armada and the weather, race leader Chris Froome didn’t flinch, he didn’t buckle, he rode a magnificent third split on his time trial steed to snatch victory away from Alberto Contador to record his third stage win and tighten his grip on the yellow jersey.
Dutch time trial champion Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) set the early benchmark of 54:02, before Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) lowered it by four seconds. As the last 40 or so riders were taking the start, it began to rain heavily on parts of the course and the technical descent from the top of the first climb quickly became slippery, forcing many riders to descend gingerly. Not so Tour of California winner Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who was one of the few riders to get faster in the final kilometres of the course – having switched to a proper time trial bike – crossing the line in 53:24.
But the rain stopped and the roads started to dry as the GC favourites took to the course with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) battling compatriots Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) for the next best times at the checkpoints and finish. It was the Vuelta a Espana all over again, with the Spanish Armada versus Sky’s Froome. But this time Froome powered home the victor after swapping bikes, gaining 20 seconds in the final section to finish nine up on Contador.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Ninth overall on GC this morning, former mountain-biker Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) was the best placed Frenchman with the weight of an entire nation resting on his slim shoulders. During a reconnoitre this morning he fell on a corner on the descent from the Cote de Reallon. A quick trip to the Tour’s mobile x-ray unit confirmed he had a non-displaced fracture of his right collarbone. Heroically, he decided to continue.
He started with strapping visible on his right shoulder and gave it his all, setting what would stand as the ninth-fastest time down the first descent. 2km from the finish line, he fell at almost the same spot onto his fractured shoulder, right in front of his wife who provided a shoulder to cry on as he was forced to abandon his Tour dream. Being voted VeloVoices rider of the day isn’t going to make up for the bitter disappointment of relinquishing a top ten overall in the Tour, but today Jean-Christophe Peraud showed why we all so admire the battling, never-say-die, qualities of professional cyclists.
Jean-Christophe Péraud abandons the race after crashing with 2km to go. No combativity prize as it’s a TT but he deserves a special one
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) July 17, 2013
Opinion & analysis
As the Tour hurtles towards Paris, there are diminishing opportunities to alter its final outcome. Alberto Contador has made it plain he’s going to fight all the way, while race leader Chris Froome is equally determined to keep the yellow jersey he’s been gracing since stage eight.
Today’s hilly time trial favoured the climbers rather than the traditional time-trialists such as world champion Tony Martin (OPQS). Excellent performances from Contador and Saxo teammate Roman Kreuziger moved them up to second and third respectively on GC. Contador will now seek to isolate Froome and call on Spanish reinforcements who might also hope to profit. Conversely, Bauke Mollema (Belkin), who was reported by a French commentator to be “pedalling with his ears” in the time trial and crashed into the barriers at Peraud corner, has dropped to fifth. Joaquim Rodriguez‘s third place today moved him up to seventh overall.
Meanwhile Nairo Quintana (Movistar) further distanced Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) in the race to become the Tour’s best young rider. But there’s still a couple more tricky stages to negotiate, so the competition hasn’t yet concluded.
The weather is forecast to be unsettled again tomorrow and rumours have been circulating that if it rains the descent from the Col de Sarenne – and hence the second ascent of Alpe d’Huez – would be cancelled. The rumour was swiftly scotched by ASO. So, will the Tour hinge on a descent rather than an ascent? We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. But it’s sure to be another cracker.
Stage 17 result
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 51:33
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:09
3. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) +0:10
4. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:23
5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:30
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 66:07:09
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +4:34
3. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +4:51
4. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +6:23
5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +6:58
6. Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) +7:21
7. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) +8:23
8. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +8:56
9. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +11:10
10. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) +12:50
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Polka dot jersey: Chris Froome (Sky).
White jersey: Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Team classification: Saxo-Tinkoff.
Link: Official website