Cover: Simon Geschke, Team Giant-Alpecin, Tour de France 2015 Stage 17
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Todd Hofert
A daunting and dangerous stage coming off of a rest day and heading straight into the Alps. The Stage 17 profile appears docile enough with only a pair of cat 3’s, a pair of cat 2’s and a single category 1 climb, the penultimate climb of the day, the Col d’Allos. How riders respond to the rest day always a concern particularly when there is little opportunity to spin the legs out when the race gets going again. Some respond favorably to the rest days, others do not.
Chris Froome arrived at the start enjoying a comfortable margin on GC despite coming off a stressful week of answering to critics and fending off physical assaults on himself and his teammates, including the heinous and despicable act of a spectator (I refuse to refer to them as a cycling fan) throwing urine at the race leader.
Peter Sagan with a firm grip on his goal of winning the Green Jersey for a fourth year running, only an inability to finish in Paris standing between himself and that feat.
Joachim Rodriguez continued to borrow laundry from Chris Froome as the second man in the standings for the climber competition wore the Polka Dot Jersey.
The White Jersey of the best young rider remained firmly on the shoulders of the man holding second place on GC, Nairo Quintana.
The yellow numbers and helmets of the team competition still being worn by Team Movistar.
There was one rider that did not make the start following the rest day and that was Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing). That left 168 riders in the race.
Nine riders were able to briefly break clear after just 3km but the peloton were quick to react and the race was back together after 3.5km. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) would give it another go, looking to make the break for a fourth straight day. He and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) were gone clear however the peloton were having none of it and they too were reeled in just 2km later. Several more attempts to form breaks were squished by the pack and riders were coming unhitched off the back. Most notably, Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) obviously suffering something from the rest day.
The race would reach the top of the first climb, the category 3 col des Lèques, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) came across the summit first taking two points and Kristjian Durasek (Lampre) one point for second place. Van Garderen already a full minute behind the action, his Tour now in jeopardy.
Every move that had been made included a very aggressive Peter Sagan. Once again he was off the front joined again by Steven Kruijswijk along with Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) but they would be caught. By this stage in the race it was glaringly apparent to everyone but Peter Sagan that he was not going to be allowed up the road. Van Garderen now reported by his team as suffering from headaches a full 3:52 behind the peloton, an example of just how quickly ones Tour fortunes can change.
Finally after 64km 28 riders were clear, and Sagan’s stubborn persistence had paid off. The break contained: Tanel Kangert (Astana), Jan Bakelants and Mikaël Chérel (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot and Benoît Vaugrenard (FDJ), Richie Porte and Nicolas Roche (Sky), Rafal Majka and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jonathan Castroviejo, José Herrada and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), John Degenkolb and Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step), Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Kristjian Durasek and Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida), Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling), Merhawi Kudus, Serge Pauwels and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN Qhubeka). Serge Pauwels and Daniel Teklehaimanot both of MTN Qhubeka would go one, two over the top of the category 3 Col de Toutes Aures.
Van Garderen and the small group of riders that had fallen off the back were able to reconnect with the peloton 82km into the stage. For now, Tejay was back in the race and looking to avoid losses and get through the day.
Much to his dismay, however, Alberto Contador went on the attack on the Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel and his move would up the tempo to one that only sixteen riders were able to answer, Van Garderen not one of them. He appeared to be a man defeated and he would abandon a few minutes later. The cruel reality of a race of attrition. A Tweet by Boulder native Connie Carpenter-Phinney summed it up.
To be fighting for a podium in the Tour de France, and then the next minute you are sitting in the car, was really hard. It was hard to look my teammates in the eyes. It was hard to call my wife and explain to her what was going on. It was a lot of emotions.”
– Tejay Van Garderen, BMC Racing
The result at the summit of the Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel (cat. 2): Serge Pauwels-5 points, José Herrada-3 points, Kristjian Durasek-2 points and John Degenkolb-1 point. The break regrouped on the descent, the intermediate sprint was lightly contested in Beauvezer with Benoît Vaugrenard (FDJ) taking the first place points followed by John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Peter Sagan content to take third. The ascent and perhaps more notably the descent of the category 1 Col d’Allos right in front of them and the peloton behind.
With opportunities for stage wins dwindling, the 28 man break was jockeying for the right moves that would prevent Peter Sagan from landing the elusive honor of the day. Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) was able to open up a gap on the lower slopes of the Col d’Allos. Two riders, Kristjian Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and José Herrada (Movistar) giving chase and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) also trying to come across. Roche, Porte, Hesjedal, Vaugrenard, Degenkolb, Losada, Quémeneur and Edet all fell off the pace, the Sagan group in between them and the lone leader.
The peloton’s foot off the gas now well over seven minutes in arrears. Geschke’s move now looking eerily familiar to that of Ruben Plaza’s winning move into Gap two days prior. The remainder of the break less Pinot and Majka regrouped behind Geschke with a 1:45 gap.
The reigning World Champion, Michal Kwitkowski (Etixx – Quick Step) became another notable abandon and the race would explode on the descent of the col d’Allos. Riders were all over the hillside. Pinot would clip a pedal and crash on the descent. Talansky would catch and pass him. Contador would suffer a crash as well. Gesink was separated from the Yellow Jersey group in the final kilometer of the Allos and chaos ensued.
My wheel slipped and I fell. We tried to fix my bike but it wasn’t working and I took Peter’s bike. I tried to descend as well as I could but at the bottom of the climb I had to change back to one of my own bikes to minimize the losses. Cycling is like this, sometimes you do well sometimes you don’t. But right now the most important thing is to recove.”
– Alberto Contador, Tinkoff-Saxo
Simon Geschke hit the final climb of the day, the Pra Loup, with a two-minute gap on hard charging Andrew Talansky. That gap would prove to be too great to overcome and Simon Geschke claimed a big stage win for Giant-Alpecin. Andrew Talansky followed thirty-two seconds down and Rigoberto Uran at 1:01 rounded out the podium for the day.
I didn’t feel great. I joined the breakaway group together with John, which was a strong group.
After the sprint I attacked and started the final climb with an advantage. I had 1’30” for a long time, and I thought I’d just see what would happen.
I knew it was a difficult descent and I went pretty fast. On the last climb I gave it my all and was able to hold on to my advantage. I suffered incredibly but I cannot put this feeling into words.
This is a dream come true. After so many attempts it finally happened. I cannot believe it.”
– Simon Geschke, Team Giant -Alpecin
The truth is that it took a while today to get into the breakaway,” Uran said. “I lost a lot of energy to be in the front at the beginning. It wasn’t easy. I probably paid for the effort in the climb of first category, which is when Geschke went. I was also waiting to see what guys as Majka and Pinot were doing. Then in the downhill I tried to close the gap, but it was already too late.
Congrats to Geschke. Concerning me, I’m happy with my third place even if we are always out there to try and win a stage. This stage was really hard, and in the next days it will be just as tough, if not more tough. But I will try again in the next days. It won’t be easy, but we have to take the risk to get into the breakaway and see what we can do in the final days.”
Rigoberto Uran, Etixx-QuickStep
Back down the Pra Loup the general classification battle was taking place as promised. In a weird show of tactics, Movistar found themselves with four riders and an isolated Chris Froome however they opted to pace the Yellow Jersey up the majority of the climb. Vincenzo Nibali was present and took advantage of some renewed form to move up the GC by finishing with this group. Matthias Frank, the best-placed rider in the days break profited handsomely from his ride moving into the top ten overall.
Movistar now has a firm grip on the final two spots of the overall podium with Nairo Quintana second to Froome at 3:10 and Alejandro Valverde moving into third at 4:09 a full 2:25 ahead of fourth placed Geraint Thomas. Contador hangs on to his fifth place overall but falling to 6:40 behind the Yellow Jersey and stands 1:01 ahead of Robert Gesink in sixth place.
I felt really well today. I recovered fine and did not struggle after the rest day. We fared pretty well, as well myself as my team-mates – with the pace we rode through the Allos climb, I didn’t realized until the end of the climb that we were only four of five at the front. That’s where I tried to attack, just like I did in the finale, though I didn’t get a gap.
We didn’t have an intention of trying to turn things around today as there are days where the mountains are more demanding, and we think we’ll be able to try harder later on. Tomorrow’s stage will be complicated; the one on Friday, finishing at La Toussuire, is a route that suits me well -full of ups and downs, with serious climbs, a hard route with long ascents-; and Alpe d’Huez is a long climb whose slopes are really good for me.
There’s still room for battle. We also entered the podium with Alejandro Valverde, who has a nice chance to snatch a place into the top-3, and kept the lead in the teams’ classification, so today’s overview must be pretty good for us.”
– Nairo Quintana, Movistar
Day one in the Alps is in the books and three days remain. What shake ups are in store for tomorrow?
Tour de France 2015 Stage 17 Top 10
- Simon Geschke (GER) #86
TEAM GIANT-Alpecin 04h 12′ 17″
- Andrew Talansky (USA) #161
TEAM GARMIN-CANNONDALE 04h 12′ 49″ +:32
- Rigoberto Uran (COL) #118
QUICK STEP-Etixx 04h 13′ 18″ + 1:01
- Thibaut Pinot (FRA) #21
FDJ 04h 13′ 53″ + 1:36
- Mathias Frank (SUI) #181
IAM CYCLING 04h 13′ 57″ + 1:40
- Steven Kruijswijk (NED) #133
LOTTO TEAM NL – JUMBO 04h 14 ’44’ ‘ + 2:27
- Nicolas Roche (IRL) #36
TEAM SKY 04h 15′ 19″ + 3:02
- Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) #53
MOVISTAR TEAM 04h 15 ’21’ ‘ + 3:04
- Serge Pauwels (BEL) #218
MTN-Qhubeka 04h 15′ 22″ + 3:05
- Adam Yates (GBR) #108
ORICA GREENEDGE 04h 15″ 38″ + 3:21
Tour de France 2015 General Classification Top 10 after Stage 17
- Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
TEAM SKY 69h 06 ’49”
- Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
MOVISTAR TEAM 69h 09′ 59″ +3:10
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
MOVISTAR TEAM 69h 10′ 58″ + 4:09
- Geraint Thomas (GBR) #39
TEAM SKY 69h 13′ 23” + 6:34
- Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
TINKOFF-SAXO 64h 51 ’39” + 6:40
- Robert Gesink (NED) #131
TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO 69h 14 ’28” + 7:39
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
ASTANA PRO TEAM 69h 14 ’53” + 8:04
- Mathias Frank (SUI) #181
IAM CYCLING 69h 15 ’36’ ‘ + 8:47
- Bauke Moellema (NED) #141
TREK FACTORY RACING 69h 18′ 36″ +11:47
- Warren Barguil (FRA) #82
TEAM GIANT-Alpecin 69h 19 ’57″ + 13:08
Tour de France 2015 Jerseys after Stage 17
Yellow (Overall leader): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Green (Points): Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
Polka-dot (KOM): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Worn by: Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
White (Best Young Rider): Nairo Quintana, Movistar
Date: 22 July, 2015
Finish: Pra-Loup Station de Montagne
Distance: 161 km
Tour de France 2015 Stage 17 route
Tour de France 2015 Stage 17 route map
Tour de France 2015 Stage 17 profile
Tour de France 2015 Stage 17 climbs
40 km – Col des Lèques6 km de montée à 5.3% – category 3
67 km – Col de Toutes Aures6.1 km de montée à 3.1% -category 3
96 km – Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel (1 431 m)11 km de montée à 5.2% -category 2
139 km – Col d’Allos ( 2 250 m)14 km de montée à 5.5% -category 1
161 km – PRA LOUP (1 620 m)6.2 km de montée à 6.5% -category 2
Maps courtesy of Le Tour de France / © A.S.O.