Stage 17 of the Tour de France proved to be the undoing for half a dozen riders on Wednesday, most notably BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, who quit the race with a reported respiratory infection while sitting third overall.
Van Garderen was joined on the stage’s DNF list by world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Sam Bennet (Bora-Argon 18), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin), Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) and Jerome Coppel (IAM Cycling).
The stage 17 route from Digne-les-Bains to Pra-Loup featured five categorized climbs, including the category 1 Col d’Allos that came 139km into the 161km stage.
Van Garderen lost contact on the first climb but fought back on the descent with help from his teammates. When Alberto Contador attacked on the next ascent, however, van Garderen was jettisoned from the GC group for good, eventually climbing off soon after. BMC team doctor Max Testa said van Garderen had been suffering from a respiratory infection since stage 13.
Kwiatkowski abandoned after the intermediate sprint 111km into the day. The world champion said he knew there was a problem when he tried to jump into the breakaway with teammate Rigoberto Uran early on in the stage but felt empty.
“I lost contact from the group on the first climb,” he said after the stage. “I fought, hoping to recover, and maybe I could feel better along the parcours, but the situation didn't change. I hung on until the intermediate sprint, but then I decided to stop. There wasn't anything left in the tank.”
Bennett, the Bora-Argon 18 sprinter who started the day last in the general classification, climbed off during the stage after fighting illness for several days.
“I felt like I didn’t get to show what I am about in this race, which is disappointing, and then being last in GC wasn’t good for the ego either,” said the 24-year-old Irishman who won stages earlier this year at the Tour of Qatar and Bayern Rundfahrt. “But I went on until I was completely empty until I literally had nothing left. It’s been all I could give.”
Didier abandoned the race after fighting through bronchitis for several days, while Coppel dropped out the race 38km into the stage after suffering an unspecified illness over the past four days.
Haas, the Cannondale-Garmin rider who featured in several breakaways during the first two weeks, finally succumbed to the Tour as well. The Australian commented about the stage on Twitter, writing, “So today... Yea, thank heavens for selective memory!”