Copyright: Stiehl Photography

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Serge Pauwels put up an impressive fight on stage 17 of Tour de France. The strong Belgian was on the attack all day long, gunning for victory.

As expected, today’s stage started out in a fast pace with countless breakaway attempts during the opening kilometers. However, it wasn’t until the riders took on the category 2 climb, Col d’Ornon that a big group finally got away. Pauwels had been very attentive near the front and he had no problems making it into the break.

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) later attacked from the peloton on the slopes towards the top of the first HC-climb of the day, Col de la Croix de Fer. He bridged across to the break and afterwards, had his teammates setting a fast tempo at the front. This thinned out the group significantly and as the breakaway took on the final two climbs, only a dozen of riders was left at the front.

Pauwels put in a couple of attacks but his rivals were quick to respond. On Col du Galibier, only four riders managed to keep up with the Belgian climber; Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates), Matthias Frank (Ag2r), Primoz Roglic (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Contador. At one point, Pauwels was at the front with only Roglic and Contador but Atapuma and Frank came back as the collaboration between the three riders wasn’t great. Ultimately, Roglic counter-attacked and managed to get away on his own.

Pauwels fought hard chasing the Slovenian rider. However, as the GC riders starting attacking each other behind him, Pauwels was caught just before the top of Galibier. Roglic continued solo to win the stage, while Pauwels crossed the line in 13th place and moved into Top20 overall. Chris Froome was third on the stage and thereby kept the yellow jersey for another day.

Steve Cummings and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg were involved in a crash early on the stage. Fortunately, both riders were able to get back on the bike and finish the stage. Tomorrow awaits another hard day in the Alps with the mountain top finish on Col d’Izoard.

Serge Pauwels: 
”When Roglic attacked on Col du Galibier, I followed him together with Contador. It would have been a perfect situation for me had we worked well together and kept a high pace all the way to the top. Unfortunately, Contador didn’t pull, which was a bit of a problem for us as Frank and Atapuma then came back. I guess Contador just didn’t have the legs for it at the end. Anyway, Roglic was the strongest guy today and he ended up getting away to take the win”.