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Slovenian Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) overcame an early crash on Stage 17 to solo to victory at the Tour de France Wednesday, riding clear from a breakaway over the Col du Galibier to finish ahead of a fractured group of GC contenders.
The victory helped ease the pain for LottoNL-Jumbo, which had seen frustrating second-place finishes this Tour for Robert Gesink and Dylan Groenewegen, and also seen Gesink and George Bennett abandon the race due to injury and illness.
Roglic, a former ski jumper, finished 1:13 ahead of Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Chris Froome (Team Sky), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Warren Barguil (Sunweb), and Mikel Landa (Team Sky), while further back, Fabio Aru (Astana), who started the day second overall just 18 seconds down, crossed the line in tenth place, 31 seconds back, dropping to fourth overall.
With the win Roglic, 27, became the first Slovenian to ever win a stage of the Tour de France.
“It’s incredible. There are no words. It’s crazy,” Roglic said. “I can’t describe all these feelings. I decided to go for it. My girlfriend and my family are here today, which was extra motivation.”
Earning six seconds time bonus, Uran moved into second overall, 27 seconds behind Froome, and tied with Bardet.
“I expected very much a shadow-chasing match between the GC guys today,” Froome said. “That was my mentality over the final climb, to do enough to follow the other guys, but not do too much with tomorrow in mind. It was interesting to see, this late in the game, that some guys are struggling. Fabio Aru was the most noticeable GC contender to lose time, but let’s see what happens tomorrow. It’s the last hard stage of this year’s Tour, a mountaintop finish on the Col d’Izoard. It’s still all to play for.”
Matthews seals green jersey
On tap was a 183km stage from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier that delivered four categorized climbs, including the HC climbs of Col de la Croix-de-Fer (24km at 5.2%) and the Col du Galibier (17.7km climb at 6.9%), the latter being the highest point of this year’s race at 2,642 metres (8,668 feet). Following the summit of the Galibier was a 28km descent to the ski resort at Serre-Chevalier. In total, the stage delivered around 4,500 metres (almost 15,000 feet) of elevation gain.
The figures on the Galibier are a bit misleading, however, as it almost immediately followed the Cat.1 climb of the Col du Télégraphe (11.9km at 7.1%), with just a short descent separating the two, leading race commentator Robbie McEwen to refer to it as the “Télé-Galibier” climb totaling nearly 30km (18 miles) of climbing.
As is often the case on high-mountain stages, there were battles being contested on several fronts — for the stage win, the general classification, the points competition, the mountains jersey, and the white jersey of best young rider.
In the battle for the green points jersey, Australian Michael Matthews (Sunweb) earned an additional 20 points on rival Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) by riding into the day’s early breakaway of 31 riders and taking the day’s only intermediate sprint point, at Allemont, 47km into the stage.
Kittel, who had been caught up in a crash 20km into the stage that also took down Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) and Warren Barguil (Sunweb), did not ride into the breakaway and earned no points; the difference between Matthews and Kittel was just nine points with three road stages remaining.
That fact became moot, however, as Kittel abandoned the race on the Croix-de-Fer, succumbing to injuries sustained in his crash.
“After getting 50 points yesterday I knew that it was game on,” Matthews said. “I knew beforehand that I had to be active to get those 20 points today and was aware that even if I did get those points it was still going to be difficult. You never want to see a guy out of a race like this, it’s been such a good battle up to this point and I hope Kittel is okay.”
Kittel said he was bitterly disappointed to abandon the race so close to Paris.
“To go home with five stage victories is great, but to go home because of a crash and before hitting Paris is a major disappointment,” Kittel said. “I couldn’t do anything to avoid that crash and lost some skin on my shoulder, back, elbow and hip, which are a bit swollen. I tried to carry on, but pedaling was just painful, especially as in the last couple of days I had to fight with stomach problems and a cold.”
Contador goes clear on the Croix-de-Fer
Starting the day 11th overall on the general classification, 6:16 behind Froome, Contador set out to redeem his Tour de France — possibly his last — with a stage win.
Contador didn’t initially make it into the day’s early breakaway. Following the crash of Cummings, Barguil, Brambilla and Kittel, 30 riders went clear.
In that group: Cyril Gautier and Mathias Frank (Ag2r La Mondiale), Jonathan Castroviejo and Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Michael Gogl, Jarlinson Pantano, and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Amaël Moinard, Nicolas Roche and Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing), Darwin Atapuma and Ben Swift (UAE), Rudy Molard (FDJ), Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Pawel Poljanski (Bora-Hansgrohe), Robert Kiserlovski (Katusha-Alpecin), Thomas De Gendt and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews, Simon Geschke and Albert Timmer (Sunweb), Nicolas Edet and Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Alberto Bettiol and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Ondrej Cink (Bahrain-Merida), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Brice Feillu and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Oscaro).
Protecting the KOM jersey of his teammate, Matthews took first atop col d’Ornon, ahead of De Gendt; the pair held a 25-second lead over the breakaway. Shortly after, following the descent of the Col d’Ornon, Matthews took the intermediate sprint in Allemont. The pair stretched out their lead to almost two minutes at the bottom of the Croix-de-Fer.
Behind, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attacked from the peloton. Pierre Latour (Ag2r) and Andrei Grivko (Astana) followed. That move would prove unsuccessful, however the increase in pace saw Kittel, Tony Martin and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) all lose contact.
Pinot, a two-time stage winner who finished third overall in 2014, would soon abandon, leaving only three riders from FDJ remaining in the race.
Sensing it was the moment to go, Contador attacked, drawing out Quintana. However the Colombian struggled to hold the pace, and while Contador initially waited for Quintana, he ultimately would go it alone. Soon after, Gogl would drop back and pace the Spaniard up to the Mollema-Roglic group.
After Navarro bridged across to Matthews and De Gendt, the Australian lost contact with the leaders before the top of the Croix-de-Fer, where De Gendt took maximum KOM points nursing a 3:22 lead over the yellow jersey group and just a scant 20-second lead over the chase group led by Pantano.
Onto the Télégraphe
At the base of the “Télé-Galibier” climb, Pantano peeled off, his job for Contador done. Mollema, stage winner on Sunday, took over full responsibility for Contador. The same went for De Gendt, who found Mollema’s pace too much to handle.
Soon after Contador required a bike change due to chain issues, costing him about 40 seconds. While Bettiol upped the pace in the breakaway, Mollema dropped back to pace Contador back.
Behind, Vasil Kiryienka peeled off the front of the yellow jersey group, his job done for Team Sky. With Michal Kwiatkowski taking over for Froome, the gap between the maillot jaune and the breakaway hovered around 3:30.
With Mollema driving the pace, the Contador group shed riders up the Télégraphe as Poljanski, Voeckler, and Roche dropped back. Over the top, the group was just 12 riders with a 3:45 lead and 52km to go: Frank (Ag2r La Mondiale), Herrada (Movistar), Contador and Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Moinard (BMC), Atapuma (UAE), Pauwels (Dimension Data), Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Navarro (Cofidis), Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), Cink (Bahrain-Merida) and Feillu (Fortuneo-Oscaro).
Over the top of the climb Roglic, who started the day a distant second to Barguil in the KOM competition, took 10 KOM points, followed by Mollema, Pauwels, and Contador.
In the yellow jersey group, Orica-Scott’s Daryl Impey took over pacemaking, looking to protect the GC position of Simon Yates, who started the day sixth overall, 2:02 behind Froome.
The slopes of the Télégraphe would claim another victim, as British sprinter Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Oscaro) would climb off his bike and abandon.
Onto the Galibier
After the short descent off the Télégraphe onto the Galibier, Roglic attacked, drawing out Contador and Pauwels go with him. Mollema peeled off, job done for his team leader. Atapuma and Frank bridged across, however Atapuma struggled shortly after.
Behind, Kwiatkowski continued to pace the 14-rider yellow jersey group ahead of Nieve, Landa and Froome.
As the pace in the Contador group slowed, Navarro bridged across, making a six-rider group at the front: Roglic, Pauwels, Contador, Atapuma, Frank, and Navarro. Pauwels was next to up the pace, at Plan Lachat with 8km left on the Galibier, and 36km remaining to the finish.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was first to attack from the GC group. Because Martin started the day seventh overall, 2:03 down, there was not an immediate reaction from the group of favorites. While Kwiatkowski drove the pace, Nieve struggled at the back of the bunch. Froome sat third wheel, with Aru glued to his wheel.
Up ahead, Roglic went clear 6km from the summit while Contador looked to Pauwels to chase. After riding with Contador and Pauwels, Atapuma jumped away to chase down the Slovenian.
”When Roglic attacked on Col du Galibier, I followed him together with Contador,” Pauwels said. “It would have been a perfect situation for me had we worked well together and kept a high pace all the way to the top. Unfortunately, Contador didn’t pull, which was a bit of a problem for us as Frank and Atapuma then came back. I guess Contador just didn’t have the legs for it at the end. Anyway, Roglic was the strongest guy today and he ended up getting away to take the win.”
Kwiatkowski was the next Sky rider to peel off the yellow jersey group, leaving the work to Landa, who slowly reeled in Martin.
Once Martin was brought back, Barguil counterattacked the GC group, opening a slight gap.
Bardet was next to attack from the GC group, with Froome following and Uran on Froome’s wheel. Martin closed the gap, with Landa on his wheel. Aru was slow to react, trailed by Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) and Yates. Once reeled in, Bardet attacked again, and while Froome, Uran, and Landa were able to respond, Aru was again put into difficulty.
“I was racing to win,” Bardet said. “I did my maximum on the Galibier, and was close to making the difference. I missed some allies at one point, but I do not regret it.
You have to be patient and consistent in the Tour de France. With 25 kilometers of downhill and a headwind, it was more difficult to distance Froome.”
Martin was next to attack, bringing the group up to Barguil. Froome chased it down, but as soon as Froome swung off to look back, the Irishman attacked again, and again Aru and Meintjes were put into trouble.
“I attacked because I wanted to test my rivals,” Martin said. “I didn’t go too deep, but this doesn’t mean I wasn’t tired. Actually, everybody’s tired 17 days into the race, so this is turning more into a mental battle.”
Around 2.5km from the summit Barguil was next to attack, in search of KOM points and in hopes of moving into the top 10 on GC.
At the summit of the Galibier, Roglic took 20 points in the KOM competition and held a substantial gap over Atapuma. Barguil caught and passed Contador before the summit, finishing third over the top ahead of the maillot jaune group. Contador was awarded the day’s most aggressive rider’s dossard for his efforts.
“When I attacked I knew it would be a hard race,” Contador said. “I started [almost six minutes] behind the breakaway and there were 33 very strong riders. I decided that I’d try to take the group and if I’d do it, I’d try to win the stage. It was like a time trial. I feel sorry for the team that has been extraordinary with [Michael] Gogl, [Jarlinson] Pantano, Bauke [Mollema] who has been impressive. In the last part of Galibier, I paid for this big effort I made on la Croix-de-Fer. It was a long stage in the mountains.”
Though Barguil has not yet mathematically secured the overall victory in the King of the Mountains competition, the Frenchman is close; he has an advantage of 49 points over Roglic with 58 points remaining up for grabs in the three road stages that remain.
“When I crashed at the beginning of the race, I was scared that all I built over three weeks of racing suddenly collapsed,” Barguil said. “Everything had gone well for me in this Tour de France until that crash. But I quickly realized that only my bike was damaged. The ascent to the Galibier was very fast but I knew the climb and I knew where to attack to go and grab some KOM points. Then on the podium I heard that I was now in the top 10 overall, I was shocked. At the end of the day, it’s another good day for me and the team.”
The descent to Serre-Chevalier
With Aru and Meintjes in difficulty, Barguil and Bardet linked up at the front of the chase group and attacked the descent of the Col du Lautaret, with only Froome and Uran able to follow, 1:30 behind Roglic. Aru and Meintjes chased together, with Yates and Martin further behind.
Landa latched onto the Froome-Uran group to make five in the first chase group, while Atapuma dropped back to ride with Meintjes. With Contador and Pauwels also there, as well as Martin, Aru’s chase group, 15 seconds behind, grew in numbers.
With 12km remaining, Roglic held a 1:20 lead over the yellow jersey group, while the gap between that group and Aru’s chase group had grown to 28 seconds.
“It feels nice to become the first Slovenian stage winner of the Tour de France, but it’s also crazy that I’m the man who can make cycling history for Slovenia as I was not a cyclist until I turned 22,” Roglic said. “I was dreaming of winning a Tour de France stage and that’s why I started cycling, but dreaming is one thing, the reality is another one. Just to participate to the Tour de France was something beautiful for me. To realize that I have the abilities to win a stage is unbelievable.”
Roglic finished the stage 1:13 ahead of Uran, with Froome in third.
“I expected Uran and Bardet to be there,” Froome said. “I didn’t expect Aru to lose time, that was the biggest surprise. Once again, I have to thank my teammates. They really emptied themselves today, each and every one of them, to make sure I was safe until the final. I’m really happy with how the day panned out.”
After losing 31 seconds, Aru dropped to fourth overall.
“This is the race, and such days just happen,” Aru said. “It was not my best day in the Tour de France, but that’s result for today. I fought until the very last meters, I gave my all to minimize loses. Finally, I was able to lose not too much time. Anyway, I don’t see a big drama in today’s stage. The race ends in Paris. Tomorrow we will have another very difficult stage with a summit final. I will try to recover well today, to come back in the game tomorrow.”
Yates finished 2:01 down on Uran and Froome, dropping to seventh overall, though he still leads Meintjes by 2:28 in the best young rider’s classification.
“It’s been a very difficult day,” Yates said. “I didn’t have the best of days. I lost some time there in the final, but I didn’t blow up massively. I still think I limited my losses okay. I saw the same thing with George Bennett the other day. He lost contact and eventually lost four minutes, so I did well limit my losses. Tomorrow I’ll do the best I can.”
Tour de France (2.UWT) La Mure → Serre-Chevalier