Where in the world is the Tour?
You wouldn't have guessed it from the action-packed transitional stages that led up to the rest day but Stage 17 is the first full day in the Alps. With three Alpine summit finishes in this year's Tour, the most since 1996, organisers are looking for some real fireworks in the final stages of the race.
What is slightly scary is that Stage 17 is probably the easiest of the Alpine stages, even with its five categorised climbs and dastardly descent from the Col d' Allos.
With a reputation as one of the most dangerous descents in the Alps, the north side of the Allos will provide a great opportunity for one of the GC's most daring descenders to try and build a gap before ascending the 6.2 kilometre climb to the finish at Pra Loup.
40 years ago the 6.2 kilometre, 6.5% Pra Loup provided the battlefield for one of the Tour's most memorable moments (especially if you are French) when Frenchman Bernard Thévenet conquered the melting tarmac to beat Eddy Merckx on the way to winning the first of his two Tours.
Team bus tactics:
With Chris Froome sitting on a substantial lead going into the final round of stages, the other GC contenders are quickly running out of time to mount an attack. With the hair-raising descent of the Allos, the punchy climb up to Pra Loup and a day's rest behind them, this could be the day for a demon descender to take matters into their own hands and try and build a gap between themselves and the wiry Team Sky captain.
There is a slim chance of a break being left to go all the way to the finish line today, as the chasing GC pack has so little time to make back the quite large gap to Froome. As a result the likes of Movistar, BMC and Tinkoff Saxo will be pushing for their leaders to be near the front up and over the Allos, leaving little room for the plucky break.
If the sprinters don't fancy it then the stage is ripe for a breakaway, especially with three low category climbs coming in the first half of the day. If a group of six to ten riders builds up a lead of ten or so minutes by the time they reach the Escrinet then look for them to go all the way to the finish.
Currently sitting in second, 3:10 behind Chris Froome, Movistar's diminutive Colombian climber is poised for a stage win, whilst looking to claw back some time. While not the most renowned descender, Quintana will be used to the high-altitude ascent of the Allos (2250 metres), which could provide him with enough of a gap to kick to the finish.
Let us know who you think will be victorious in Stage 17 in the comments section below.
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