The riders had a much needed rest day, the second of the 2016 race, on Tuesday. They return with a really tough day on Tour de France Stage 17 on Wednesday. Mountains feature prominently as the riders enter the Alps.
Stage 17 – The Profile
Stage 17 starts in Berne and remains in Switzerland for all 184.5 kms of the days racing. The profile shows that the riders will effectively be travelling upwards for the first 105 kms of the stage.
There are two category 3 climbs in the first 100kms of the stage. A break will go chasing the KOTM points on these and possibly feature a sprinter or two looking for Green Jersey points. the Intermediate Sprint comes in a valley section at 150kms. Peter Sagan now has such a large lead that in this classification so I wouldn’t expect him to be in the break.
The final 35 kms of the stage is a severe test for the riders. It features a category 1 and a hor category climb, the latter to the finish line in Finhaut-Emosson. The category 1 climb – the Col de la Forclaz is 13 kms long with a 7.9% gradient. This is peaked at 166.5 kms. A very short drop takes the riders to the foot of the hor category climb to the finish line. The hor category Finhaut-Emosson climb is even tougher with an 8.4% average gradient for 10.4 kms. The top two-thirds of the Finhaut-Emosson are all above 10%!
In the race directors minds I think they saw this stage as being one for the big showdown between Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana. Of course they could not see how the 2016 race would unfold to this point. Froome as clear race leader can simply defend his lead if he chooses on Stage 17.
The big question regarding stage 17 is whether the break succeeds or not. It is a tough choice and I have been wrong on a couple of the mountain stages so far. I would expect Wednesdays stage to be different. There are time bonuses on the line and ‘double climb’ at the end will see riders within the top 15 attacking to improve their GC position.
Another multiple stage winner in Finhaut-Emosson?
The 2016 TDF has featured riders winning multiple stages – Mark Cavendish (4), Peter Sagan (3) and Tom Dumoulin (2). I think there is a strong possibility that race leader Chris Froome joins that list after Stage 17.
Froome is clear favourite for stage 17 with all bookmakers. Sky will have to guard him well onto the base of the Col de la Forclaz. They will have to watch Bauke Mollema (Trek) the second placed rider closely and mark any move by the Movistar pair Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana. Thus far in the race when Froome has properly attacked in the mountains only Mollema and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) have been able to follow. The Movistar pair have struggled and sit 3 minutes behind Froome.
I think Sky and Froome will mark attacks on the first climb and ride at their mountain tempo. The group will whittle down on the Col de la Forclaz. The trio of Froome, Porte and Mollema will be left to fight out the stage win into Finhaut-Emosson. Mollema has looked strong but he has always faded in the third week of his previous Grand Tours. That leaves Froome and Porte to challenge for the stage win. We will have to back Froome for the win as his odds are in the 3.00-3.50 range. Porte can be backed at 9.00 which is a great EW price.
I would be shocked in Quintana, the bookmakers second favourite finds his mountain legs. He will likely fancy his chances of climbing one place on GC to third as Adam Yates (Orica) is only 12 second in front of him. I hope Yates can continue to fight, but I do fear that he will lose some time over the next 4 mountain stages. His White Jersey is safe and he will wear this in Paris but he could slip a few places as the next 4 riders in the GC are within 2 minutes of him.
If we get two races
In the scenario that we get a GC battle behind a stage battle then a number of riders to consider.
Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) featured prominently in stage 15 only to lose time descending and then when he lose a contact lens. I think this finale suits him better than stage 15 because the stage finishes on a mountain top. Those of you who are avid cycling fans know he had a massive crash on a mountain descent on this years Giro d’Italia. Stage 15 showed that he still has those demons to conquer. You can back Zak at 17.0.
Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) – another big stage here and he can all but clinch the KOTM. He was gutted to have lost stage 14 on a sprint to the line but like Zakarain, the mountain top finish suits him. He really wants a stage win and he could get it here at odds of 13.0.
Another rider desperate for a stage win is Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx). He has been on the attack the last two stages. he probably would have won stage 15 if not for a crash when leading. Then on stage 16 he went on a ludicrous long breakaway with team-mate Tony Martin. I think he might be too exhausted to try again on Wednesday.
Astana pair Louis Leon Sanchez and Tanel Kangert might be allowed to go into the breakaway. They can both climb and Astana need something from this race. Vincenzo Nibali has tried to escape on multiple occasiosn but to no avail. You can back them both at 201.00 which might be worth a small EW punt. Of the two I prefer the chances of Kangert.
I like one head-to-head bet for stage 17 – Romain Bardet (AG2R) to beat Fabio Aru (Astana). Bardet is 6th on GC and I can see him targetting the top 5 over the next 4 stages. Bardet has a lead over Aru of 1 minute 12 seconds. Aru will look to also climb the GC but I feel on form that Bardet is the better rider.
Tour de France Stage 17 Tips
Back Chris Froome to win stage 17 with a 2.5/10 stake at 3.60 with Bet365.
Back Tanel Kangert to win stage 17 with a 0.5/10 stake EW (1/4 odds top 3) at 201.00 with Paddy Power.
Back Porte & Kangert here:
WON – Back Romain Bardet to beat Fabio Aru with a 2.5/10 stake at 2.10 with Paddy Power.
Back Bardet here: