Who will win Stage 17?
We were so close yesterday, maybe half a psi of front tyre pressure from a Predictomator win… what a day it was, though. The sad news is that Phil Gilbert broke a knee cap in his spectacular fall (but still rode 30km to the finish), and won’t start today. Not that he would have featured on this, the almost-shortest and most brutal road stage in Tour history.
It is only 65km long, but it forces the riders to fight gravity over 3 160m of altitude gain over three legendary climbs: Montée de Peyragudes (Category 1 – 14.9km at 6.7%), the Col de Val Louron-Azet (7.4km @ 8.3%) and the mountain-top finish for the day, the the Col du Portet (16km in length at an average gradient of 8.7%).
For reference: the Cape Town Cycle Tour climbs 1 200m in 109km… essentially, this warriors will be climbing three times as much in half the distance. How is that even possible?
And so, we fire up the Predictometer… and out spits the name Chris Froome. If he is to win Tour number 5, today is surely the day. The Pyrenees suit him better than Geraint Thomas and Tom Dumoulin – they are steeper and rougher, so the skinnier riders better – and if he is not bound by team orders today, we should see him, Romain Bardet, Michael Landa and maybe Dan Martin causing groot kaka for the heavier riders like Roglic (although, he has such a huge engine and is flying below the radar so beautifully, keep one eye open for a surprise early attack). Quintana? That would involve some aggressive riding from the Colombian – he is not so famous for such things, unfortunately, though he is made for these climbs.
Ultimately, Chris Froome needs to make today count, and he has both the power and the experience to do so, so we are looking forward to a famous victory for Team Sky atop the Portet… the only question is whether he will be patient or go full Giro on the field, and strike out a climb early.