The Tour de France headed back to the Alps on stage 17 with BMC Racing Team’s Amaël Moinard, Nicolas Roche and Danilo Wyss all in the thick of the action as part of the day’s breakaway on an epic day of climbing.
The action began from the moment the flag dropped with a string of early attacks, including moves from Moinard and Alessandro de Marchi, being pulled back by the peloton over the opening 15km, of the 183km course.
As riders at the back of the bunch were caught up in a crash, a group of around 30 others, including Moinard, Roche, and Wyss was beginning to put distance between themselves and the rest of the field.
With the peloton sitting up behind them, the group began to extend a solid advantage, and as they approached the summit of the first of four categorized climbs, the Col d’Ornon, it was sitting at over three minutes.
Going over the top of the climb, Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto – Soudal) went clear, but with 153km still to race, the BMC Racing Team trio maintained their position in the large chasing group.
Behind them, race leader Chris Froome’s Team Sky was setting the pace on the slopes of the Col de la Croix de Fer as Alberto Contador (Trek – Segafredo) attacked to close the three-minute gap to the chase group, 8km before the summit of the climb.
Despite having previously held an advantage of around two minutes, the two leaders soon came into view and even with the added power of Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), they were eventually caught by the chase group, which still included Moinard and Roche, inside 90km to go.
The leaders’ advantage was jumping around three minutes as the pace at the front saw riders begin to drop off the back as the road began to rise once again with the Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier looming on the horizon.
On the hardest slopes of the iconic final climb, five riders were sitting out in front but, a burst of acceleration from Primoẑ Roglic (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) saw him go clear as the General Classification contenders began to sweep up the remaining breakaway riders.
Roglic went onto the descent with an advantage of 1’35” and in the end, he was able to hold on to take a solo victory ahead of Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale – Drapac) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) in Serre Chevalier.
Damiano Caruso slipped back from the yellow jersey group as they neared the top of the Col du Galibier but he was able to maintain his own rhythm to finish inside the top twenty alongside teammate Moinard.
Caruso now sits in eleventh on the General Classification, 10’03” behind Froome, with the final day of climbing to come on stage 18.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“We knew today would be super hard and it was. I tried to stay as long as I could with the General Classification favorites. I was dropped but then came back and was dropped again. I went ‘à bloc’ and after that I just tried to ride my own race and get to the finish line as fast as possible. I think tomorrow will be another tough day so I’ll aim to recover as much as possible”
“I was feeling good until the second part of the Col du Galibier, and then I cracked a bit. I was a bit disappointed, but I was able to keep to my own rhythm when the leaders began to attack ahead of me. I was also able to help Damiano Caruso on the climb because there was a lot of wind. Overall, I am really happy because I wanted to be in the breakaway and out at the front of the Tour de France today.”
“When I was a kid, I always dreamt about this kind of stage with the big climbs and to be up there and to open up the race was fantastic. I might be 35 years old and riding my ninth Tour de France, but I am still really enjoying it.”
Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
“We hoped that it might be possible to go for the stage today if they [the peloton] let it go a little bit. But, with the move from Alberto Contador (Trek – Segafredo), the situation changed. It was good to have the team active and to ride out at the front. We had another good day, and we are continuing to fight. In the end, although he moved into 11th position overall, Damiano Caruso was good. It was a good attack from Contador and Damiano fought all day and stuck with the best riders in the race until just 3km from the summit of the Col du Galibier.”
“Tomorrow is the final mountain stage of the race, and I think we can expect another hard day. We can try to go again in the breakaway, but I can imagine it will be a big day for the GC contenders.”