2022 Tour de France Stage 17 Preview

Saint-Gaudens > Peyragudes 129.6km

Another huge day in the fight for the yellow jersey. This is the penultimate mountain stage, time is running out for those wanting to make a move in the overall classification, this day takes on a huge amount of significance in the fight for yellow and the podium. Last time we were here it was 2017 and a certain Romain Bardet took the stage win, after Team Sky had ridden all day to set up Chris Froome. That was the first time the super steep section was added at the end of the stage, it is a very challenging finish.

Weather

The intense heat of the last week has now left the building, everyone will be happy with that. Temperatures are now back in the high 20s, which is much more bearable for the peloton.

The Key Climbs

First up is the Col d’Aspin.

The finale kicks off with Col de Val Louron-Azet, which is steep at the start, and right at the end. Some might try to attack over the crest, as a technical descent follows with lots of hairpin bends.

The stage ends with the mighty Peyragudes. The overall figures of 8.1km at 7.7% don’t really do it justice. Coming in the final week, this climb will feel much harder than usual, especially the brutal ramp up to the finishing line. Last time, the main GC contenders all stayed together until the final rise to the line, but that was stage 12 of the race, I wonder if we’ll get the same type of finish this time round.

Tactics

Just 130km long and the opening 54km are flat, which leaves 76km of climbing and descending, it’s a beautifully designed stage. This final 76km has 2764m of climbing, which is a huge amount crammed into a short period of time. Short stages like this often go the way of the GC group, but that all relies on a team wanting to chase the break.

Yet again, we have a flat start to a mountain stage, the climbers will be getting annoyed by now. To win this stage you must be a brilliant climber, but these guys will find it hard to make the morning break. If it takes a long time to form, it increases the chances of it being controlled, as the stage is a short one. For the break to win, it needs to go early, allowing them the chance to build their lead before the climbing starts, and it needs to include several talented climbers.

Who will want to chase the break? Jumbo-Visma will have no interest, UAE would love to set up a stage win, but they only have four domestiques left to work for Pogačar, but they could still chase before the climbs. Ineos are the team who hold the cards, they are the only squad with the numbers required to chase all day, something they’ve not done at any point throughout the race. Okay, it’s unlikely that Geraint Thomas can beat the big two, but they could set up a long-range attack for Yates or Pidcock. A move by either won’t be chased by Jumbo-Visma, and with UAE significantly weakened, it does have a chance of success.

What we do know is that Pogačar will attack on numerous occasions, and he can’t wait for the last climb. Vingegaard will try to cover, and if successful, he won’t work and the dropped riders will come back to the group. If Pogačar continues to ride with such an aggressive approach, it opens the door to those a little further down the GC, especially a rider like Quintana. If we get a stage where the break isn’t successful, he’s someone who can take advantage of the race situation. He’s not a realistic threat to the podium, due to the TT, so he might not be chased if he attacks at the right moment. 

Just like today, both UAE and Jumbo-Visma would love to have satellite riders up the road. Van Aert is the master at this, it means he can “save” some energy throughout the stage, and he’s then around for the end of the stage. UAE would love to stop this from happening, but they simply don’t have the team strength to do so, only Ineos are capable of chasing down the early moves in order to try and stop Van Aert doing his usual. With only six men left in the race, Jumbo-Visma must be creative in terms of how they use their domestiques.

So, the short stage swings the advantage in favour of the GC group, but the lack of UAE domestiques swings it back towards the break. The success of the morning move will depend on Ineos, they are the ones with the numbers to chase, but do they have the will?

Contenders

Tadej Pogačar – he’s got an excellent record in short stages. In the 2019 Vuelta, he won the 94km stage in Andorra. In the 2021 Tour, he won the 130km stage to Luz Ardiden. Not only does he love short stages, he also goes very well in this part of the world. We all love seeing him attack, but in his attempts to put Vingegaard under pressure, he could blow up all together. The other issue he’ll have is if he’s left alone with Vingegaard, I doubt the Dane will do any work, which will allow others back into the game. He’s going to go down swinging, but can he take any time back in the fight for the yellow jersey?

Jonas Vingegaard – the stage win isn’t important, it’s all about yellow. However, if the opportunity does arise, he’ll try to take it. In an ideal world, he’ll get away with Pogačar, force him to do all the work, then jump him on the line. He knows that Kuss will be with him until the bitter end, that will give him a lot of confidence heading into a massive day in the fight for the yellow jersey.

Thibaut Pinot – wasn’t in today’s break, so in theory, he’s saved some energy for this stage. Temperatures are down a little, much more to his liking, but it’s still been a very hot race. When interviewed in recent days, he’s not been sure about his form, he says that he has good and bad days since catching COVID. To win this stage, he needs a really good day.

Michael Woods – looked the best climber today, he goes into this stage full of confidence. He’s been struggling to recover from his crash in the first week, and just a few days ago seemed miles away from his best. Then suddenly, he found legs today, the joy of cycling! If he makes the break, he’ll be one of the men to beat.

Nick Schultz – on paper, his performance today was decent. In reality, it’s the best I’ve ever seen him. He needs to use his teammates to get in the break, then see what his legs can do.

Tom Pidcock – over 10 minutes down on GC, I want to see him going for the break. Ineos have the cards to play, I hope to see them ride an aggressive race and put Pidcock into a position where he can win his second stage.

Andorra guys – the stage finish isn’t too far from Andorra, expect to see lots of stories of family, friends, and pets at the finishing line. The “locals” with a shot at winning are Pidcock, Yates, Martínez, Woods, Schultz, Mas and Verona.

Prediction Time

The break to take a while to establish, and then we’ll see UAE use Hirschi and Bjerg to chase on the flat. Once we hit the Col d’Aspin, Pogačar will attack and try to put Vingegaard under pressure. The Dane needs to be clever; he doesn’t need to respond to all the attacks, let his teammates shoulder some of the burden too. All these attacks will kill the break, and possibly even the legs of Pogačar. I have no idea how the rest of the stage will play out, but I’ll take a win for Jonas Vingegaard, he looks amazing just now.

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