Tour de France: Gall Wins Epic Mountain Battle in Stage 17
Following yesterday’s challenging individual time trial, today’s Tour de France menu was an excruciating mountain stage. Stage 17 took the Tour de France cyclists on a 165.7-kilometer ride from Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc to Courchevel. The stage offered Tadej Pogacar one of his final opportunities to reduce the lead of Jonas Vingegaard before the Tour de France reaches Paris on Sunday.
The stage featured the legendary Cormet de Roselend (Categorie 1; 19.8 km; 6.1% average incline percentage) and Col de la Loze (Hors Categorie; 28.3 km; 6% average incline percentage) climbs. To spice things up, Tour de France race organizer A.S.O. had added the category 1 Col des Saisies (13.5 km; 5.1%) and the Category 2 Cote de Longefoy (6.7 km; 7.5%) to the mix.
The hostilities started early when multiple attacks were launched to send riders into breakaways – either for teams to gain the chance of taking a stage victory – or for tactical reasons to support the various interests of general classification riders.
EF Education-EasyPost’s Magnus Cort launched the first attack of the day, and several riders were active in the first kilometers. But it was a larger group that would form a more viable gap.
Riders in the breakaway included Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep), Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious), Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen), Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Victor Lafay (Cofidis Team), Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM), Krists Neilands (Israel-PremierTech), Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula), Lawson Craddock (Jayco-Alula), Chris Harper (Jayco-Alula), Clement Champoussin (Arkea-Samsic), and Uno-X Pro Cycling Team’s Jonas Gregaard.
But the main peloton was headed by the Jumbo-Visma team, and its riders were setting a fast pace to control the advantage of the breakaway group. It appeared they were not willing to let a breakaway featuring Majka escape, because of Majka’s great climbing skills. Apparently Jumbo-Visma wanted to win a mountain stage in this year’s Tour de France.
UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogacar (second in the general classification) was sitting relatively far back in the main peloton, and it was reported he had been involved in a crash early in the stage. He was bleeding from his left leg.
Ciccone won the sprint for the Best Climber Classification points, and he was followed by teammate Skjelmose across the top of the Col des Saisies.
The breakaway group was reeled in by the chasing main peloton controlled by Jumbo-Visma and new breakaway attempts were launched.
Alaphillipe, Haig, Ciccone, Skjelmose, Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar), Vermaerke, Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroen), Harper, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Neilands formed a new front group. Other riders were chasing. Chasers included Cort, Uran, Pinot, Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), and Groupama-FDJ’s Valentin Madouas.
The riders entered the Cormet de Roselend (Categorie 1; 19.8 km; 6.1% average incline percentage).
UAE Team Emirates launched an attack from the main peloton in support of their team leader Pogacar. Rafal Majka and Marc Soler were launched. Jumbo-Visma sent Tiesj Benoot and Wilco Kelderman along, while Alexey Lutsenko joined for Team Astana.
On the Cormet de Roselend climb – a climb that featured incline percentages of up to 17% - a more durable breakaway group was formed. The group featured 34 riders and included Soler, Majka, Benoot, and Kelderman. Other notable participants included Pinot, Uran, Cort, Alaphilippe, Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), Ciccone, Skjelmose, O’Connor (AG2R-Citroen), Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen), Costa, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula), and Lutsenko.
Bahrain-Victorious rider Phil Bauhaus abandoned the race after being dropped from the peloton.
The front group were still together when the riders reached the top of Cormet de Roselend. 100 kilometers remained of the race. Ciccone was first across the top, again followed by teammate Skjelmose. At this point the main peloton was 01:30 minutes behind the leaders. A long descent awaited the riders.
The 34 riders in the breakaway were finishing the descent from the Cormet de Roselend at very fast speeds. They were now approaching the Cote de Longefoy (category 2; 6.7 km; 7.5%).
After Skjelmose had led the breakaway group up the climb, teammate Ciccone was once again the first rider across a summit of a climb in this stage of the Tour. The group had a three-minute advantage over the main peloton led by Jumbo-Visma.
Egan Bernal (Ineos-Grenadiers) slipped on his bike while cornering on the descent. Fortunately, he was not badly injured, so he got back on his bike and soldiered on.
As expected, the pace was very fast and the front group was working hard to maintain their advantage, while the Jumbo-Visma team were setting a fast speed as requested by team leader Vingegaard who is preferring races to be as hard as possible over a longer distance.
Ciccone, Jonas Gregaard, and Nans Peters (AG2R-Citroen) were dropped shortly after the front group entered the final climb of the day – the legendary Col de la Loze – which in this year’s Tour has been handed the Souvenir Henri Desgrange status. As previously described, the Col de la Loze is a long 28.3-kilometer climb with an average incline percentage of 5.9 percent. The climb, however, features sections of up to 11.6 percent.
Uran, Alaphilippe, Clement Champoussin (Arkea-Samsic) and Movistar’s Gregor Mühlberger were dropped with 33 kilometers left of the stage.
The Ineos-Grenadiers team moved to the front of the main peloton later in the Col de la Loze climb. They had four riders in the greatly reduced main peloton that featured just fifteen riders at this point. Meanwhile, in the front group the AG2R-Citroen and Bahrain-Victorious teams had taken control. Later, Jayco-Alula’s Chris Harper moved to the front in support of his team captain Simon Yates.
With 7.8 kilometers left of the stage, a dramatic change occurred. Pogacar was dropped from the favorites group. Perhaps he was suffering after yesterday’s tough time trial – or he was in pain after the crash he was involved in earlier in the stage.
Meanwhile, Majka, Yates, Harper and Gall were at the very front. Gall attacked solo. He wanted the stage win for his AG2R-Citroen team. Majka and Yates initiated a chase.
The favorites group was minimized further because of Benoot’s incredible pace. Vingegaard attacked solo – while main challenger Pogacar was suffering multiple minutes behind. Vingegaard was chasing the stage victory and was looking to dramatically increase his advantage in the general classification – as he did in yesterday’s time trial. He must have recovered well.
Gall pressed on in his quest for the most memorable stage victory of his career. Behind him Yates was now chasing solo, as Majka had imploded.
Later on the climb Vingegaard was joined by a teammate who had waited for him. But they were struck by bad luck – a race director car and a motorcycle got in their way, and they had to stop behind the vehicles and wait for the spectators and vehicles to get out of the way. A few seconds later Vingegaard and teammate pressed on. Vingegaard was later launched by his teammate and reinitiated his solo chase.
Gall was first to reach the top of the Col de la Loze and thereby won the Souvenir Henri Desgrange. But that wasn’t enough for the Austrian rider – he wanted the stage victory. Yates reached the top of the climb twenty-one seconds after Gall. A mad chase awaited on the dangerous descent.
Gall crossed the finish line in solo fashion as winner of stage 17 of Tour de France 2023.
Simon Yates was next across the finish line – 34 seconds behind the Austrian stage winner. Bilbao completed the podium 01:38 minutes behind Gall.
Vingegaard was the fourth rider to solo across the finish line 01:52 minutes after stage winner Gall. Meanwhile, Pogacar was still suffering in the French mountains following his crash.
Pogacar reached the finish line supported by loyal teammate Marc Soler 07:37 minutes after stage winner Gall and 05:44 minutes after Tour de France leader Vingegaard of Denmark.
In the 2023 Tour de France general classification Pogacar lost valuable time and it now looks impossible for him to take the overall victory in the race. Vingegaard leads Tour de France in 67:57:51, while Pogacar is no less than 07:35 minutes behind. Adam Yates is in third, 10:45 minutes behind the Great Dane. Ineos-Grenadiers’ Carlos Rodriguez is fourth with a 12:01 minute deficit.
Thursday’s stage 18 will be a 184.9-kilometer hilly ride from Moutiers to Bourg-en-Bresse. Look for a breakaway group to fight for the stage victory if the sprinters lack the energy needed to control the stage so it will result in a mass sprint.
Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com for complete coverage from Tour de France 2023.
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