Stage 17: Berne - Finhaut-Emosson
The day after a repose in Berne, four big stages in the Alps mean this stage is sure to offer up races within races. Before the stage hits its crux, the penultimate climb, the peloton will have traversed the third category Saanenmöser and Col des Mosses climbs, the latter of which towers over Aigle, home of the UCI. Finhaut-Emosson was first used in the Dauphiné two years ago and this year the Col de la Gueulaz – the actual name of the climb – accedes to the Tour. It’s a brute and has only been made accessible by the opening of a tunnel through the mountain which will transfer the riders back to France. The stage adopts the same approach as the corresponding stage in the Dauphiné, by tackling the tough Col de la Forclaz (12.6km at 8.2 per cent) before dropping back down to the small town of Trient. Then the peloton tackles the lighter lower slopes of the Gueulaz, which turns vindictive in the final 7km, with gradients well over 10 per cent in places. The last 800m or so are all above 12 per cent. When the Dauphiné tackled it in 2014, riders finished in tired dribs and drabs.
Given what’s just come before and what lies ahead, it’s likely that an escape of top climbers and GC rejects will fight out this stage by using the Forclaz as a springboard to move clear and contest the stage. The GC riders will bide their time until the closing kilometres above Finhaut. In 2014, Contador attacked Froome here with a couple of kilometres to go and turned a 12-second deficit into an eight-second lead.
Of course, the caveat is if the blood of a main contender is in the water early, expect rivals teams to try to press home their advantage by sending men up the road to lend a pull later.
Robert Mllar: The least unpleasant of the final Alpine stages. Good roads, beautiful scenery and fairly uneventful until the descent into Aigle for a quick wave to UCI headquarters. Then it’s fasten your seatbelts for the blast along the valley and from Martigny on it’s every man for himself. The Col de la Forclaz is unrelenting and it’s windy so the decisions could well be made even before the haul up to Finhaut. The perfect terrain for Quintana versus Froome.
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