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TOUR’15 St.17: Gutsy Geschke In Pra Loup!

Race Report Stage 17: Simon Geschke took an exceptional win as he broke clear of the day long breakaway on the Col d’Allos to hold off a group of fast closing climbers. It was an unfortunate day for Van Garderen who was forced to abandon after an overnight sickness that led to him losing time from the opening climb. The GC guys once again played out a stalemate as, despite superior manpower, Quintana was unable to gap Froome.

The first of the four Alpine stages we have which should bring the race to a thrilling denouement. The stage, from Dignes-les-Bains to Pra-Loup, is a carbon copy of the Dauphine stage that Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) won last month. Facing the peloton will be 161km of Southern Alpine riding featuring five categorised climbs; 3rd category Col des Leques (6km @ 5.3%), 3rd category Col de Toutes Aures (6.1km @ 3.1%), 2nd category Col de la Colle Saint-Michel (11km @ 5.2%), 1st category Col d’Allos (14km @ 5.5%) and finally the second category Pra-Loup (6.2 km @ 6.5%). The two main keys to the day are the descent of the d’Allos and the oppressive heat. Bardet used the descent from the first category climb to get away from the main peloton. Chris Froome (Sky) is not the best descender in the peloton so expect to see Nibali (Astana) or even Quintana (Movistar) try to isolate the yellow jersey. The heat is also a factor, as I write this I am heading into Chambery on the way to the final three Alpine stages of the race. Glancing over at the temperature gauge I can tell you that we are hitting 34º Celsius in the shade.


Quintana from the Gun
As has become a feature of the race for the past few stages, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) tried to ignite the start of the stage by getting into an early break. His first attempt was immediately brought back and although his second attempt, featuring Thibault Pinot (FDJ.fr), Joaquín Rodriguez (Katusha) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garnin) was given more rope, it was also brought back before it could establish itself.

We expect the action to begin on the penultimate climb however we weren’t accounting for the sprightly Quintana who jumped away on the first climb. He was reeled in by the Sky led peloton but his attack was enough to distance Tejay Van Garderen (BMC). It was widely accepted that he American isn’t the best climber in the race but to see him struggling on the first climb of the Alps, a 3rd category climb, was hugely surprising. With barely 50km of racing Van Garderen had already lost 2 minutes and any hope of a podium finish in Paris.

A Break Finally Forms
After almost 2hours or racing we finally have a 28 man break containing, deep breath; Kangert (Astana), Bakelandts & Cherel (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pinot & Vaugerand (FDJ.fr), Porte, Roche (Sky), Majka and Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Castroviejo, Herrada & Izagirre (Movistar), Degenkolb & Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Losada (Katusha), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), Uran (Etixx – Quick-Step), Quenenuer (Europcar), Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Durasek & Valls (Lampre-Merida), Talansky & Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), Edet (Cofidis), Frank (IAM Cycling), Kudus, Pauwels & Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka). The biggest surprise in the break was the presence of two Sky men. Is Froome lining up an attack for later in the stage? As the race approached the third climb of the day the break had a two minute lead on the pack whilst Van Garderen languished 3 minutes further back.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 17
Peter Sagan made it into the break of the day… again

Tears for Tejay
BMC had confirmed that Tejay was sick and although he was able to catch back on at the foot of the Col de la Colle he was immediately distanced and crawling behind the peloton. Eventually he pulled over to the waiting team car and abandoned the race. It was an incredibly sad end to a race that had been so encouraging for Van Garderen. For the GC it meant that Valverde now jumped into the final podium spot alongside his younger Colombian team mate.

With 74km to go we saw Contador attacking out of the chasing group, he was followed by Valverde but both were brought back by the Sky peloton. Europcar then tried to send Rolland up the road but he was also brought back. The race was now resembling a boxing ring where a number of small boxers were taking it in turns to land opportunistic body shots on the hulk in the centre of the ring. The continuous attacking had actually had the effect of allowing the break to extend their lead past the 3 minute mark as we rode towards the penultimate climb.

Col d’Allos
As the race hit the Allos the break was split apart as Geschke attacked. The German rider has been looking strong in recent stages and with the break’s lead now ballooning out to over 11 minutes he had a serious chance to snatch stage victory if he could stay away until the top of the climb. Behind him Teklehaimanot had taken the chance to go alone, but he was quickly joined by a rarefied group of chasers featuring Porte and Majka. Nicholas Roche was also active in closing down the German’s gap and with the gap as large as it was the two Sky men were now of no use to Froome.

The chasing group continued to splinter as first Valls and then Frank made moves, but neither looked likely to stay away.

The main peloton were being led by the combined forces of Trek Factory Racing and Team Sky as the Movistar team sat in and waited to strike.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 17
Another great day for the MTN-Qhubeka team as Serge Pauwels, Merhawi Kudus Ghebremedhin and Daniel Teklehaimanot all finished in the top 20

In the lead Geschke continued to tap out a steady rhythm but deceptively he was moving away from the chase and his lead was edging towards 2 minutes. He was under pressure from Pinot, who despite being dropped on the descent into the climb had now caught and passed all his breakaway companions bar Geschke.

It was turning into another bad day for Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) who had lost touch with the peloton and was very quickly fading despite the close attentions of 3 team mates. He wasn’t the only victim of the sudden burst of pace that Astana had applied at Nibali’s behest, Bardet was also losing contact and Froome was left with just Thomas for support. The only Frenchman performing above expectations was Pinot who had destroyed Geschke’s lead to just one minute as they headed over the climb.

The Perilous Descent
Pinot had closed the gap on the descent but his descending issues are widely acknowledged and he slid out near the top and lost more and more time to the German. In the yellow jersey group Froome was isolated with just Valverde, Quintana, Nibali and Contador for company. The Brit was joined by Porte though, who must have come to a near halt at the top of the climb. Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) was also performing strongly as he summited the d’Allos just a minute down.

Up ahead Pinot had been caught and passed by Talanksy and the Frenchman was clearly faltering on the descent as more and more of the riders he had passed on the ascent were now wiping out and flipping that advantage.

The final climb started with Geschke nursing a comfortable advantage over all his chasers, especially Pinot who was now back to 2 minutes down. In fact a Pinot had been replaced as second on the road by Talanksy who was followed by Uran and the Frenchman in a fast closing 4th place.

The overall favourites were yet to start the climb and the lack of pictures from behind suggested that the descent was not going to be the battleground that we had expected.

In the break Geschke was still leading by more than a minute but it was clear that someone had lit Talanksy’s famously short fuse and he was setting about hunting down the leader. He was, himself, being closed by the duo of Pinot and Frank who were looking tired but the time gap didn’t seem to be showing this.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 17
A bad day for Alberto Contador, a crash and a bike change lost him valuable time

Froome was once again isolated in a foursome containing Valverde and Quintana and Nibali, Contador had been distanced on the descent because of problems with his bike, possibly due to an earlier crash. The wisdom of putting so many riders in the early break was paying off for Movistar who now had a train of three riders setting Quintana up for a late attack.

In front Geschke was able to take advantage of the relatively short and shallow final climb to hold off the chasers, he beat Talanksy and Pinot into 2nd and 3rd.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 17
A very emotional Simon Geschke took the biggest win of his career

The GC were again in danger of playing out a stalemate as Quintana attacked but was easily brought back by Froome. The chasing Contador was losing 2 minutes on the day but the pictures were showing torn shorts that had clearly been a souvenir from a crash on the Allos descent. Quintana went once again inside the final kilometer but he couldn’t break Froome and although he crossed the line ahead of the Brit it was a positive day for Froome who, despite being isolated, was able to contain the rampaging Quintana. There’s three days left in the Alps but can Quintana reach into his bag of tricks and find a way to distance Chris Froome?

Loser of the day was Alberto Contador who kept his 5th place but is now at 6:40 to Froome and Geraint Thomas has jumped ahead of him by 6 seconds.

Keep tuned to PEZ for Ed Hood’s day in the Alps and the Tour video catch up in EuroTrash Thursday.

Tour de France Stage 17 Result:
1. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Alpecin in 4:12:17
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin at 0:32
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step at 1:01
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 1:36
5. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling at 1:40
6. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 2:27
7. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sky at 3:02
8. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar at 3:04
9. Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN-Qhubeka at 3:05
10. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEDGE at 3:21.
11. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale at 4:26
12. Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) MTN-Qhubeka at 4:50
13. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4:54
14. Merhawi Kudus Ghebremedhin (Eri) MTN-Qhubeka at 5:55
15. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin at 5:58
16. Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 6:06
17. Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Europcar at 6:55
18. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 7:16
19. Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Lampre-Merida
20. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
21. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 7:23
22. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 7:31
23. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 7:52
24. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 8:18
25. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 8:32.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 17:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 69:06:49
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:10
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 4:09
4. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team at 6:34
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 6:40
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 7:39
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 8:04
8. Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling at 8:47
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek at 11:47
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 13:08
11. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 16:04
12. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin at 16:25
13. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC at 17:52
14. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 18:37
15. Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN-Qhubeka at 20:07
16. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal at 20:12
17. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling at 21:14
18. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr at 26:14
19. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 39:22
20. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 40:48
21. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 42:31
22. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 44:34
23. Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 45:12
24. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar at 45:34
25. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Alpecin at 46:15.

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