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Tour de France 2018: Stage 17 preview

It's a pity that Alberto Contador isn't racing anymore. He would have loved a mountain stage designed purely for attackers. He lost the 100km-long stage 13 from Saint Girons to Foix to Warren Barguil last year, but fired up the race in a way that thrilled fans.

It's been 30 years since such a short stage featured on the Tour route: in 1988, there was a 38km stage from Tarbes to Pau, but it was a morning half-stage, won by Dutchman Adri van der Poel (and came 10 years after Bernard Hinault had set the peloton on strike to protest against such split stages on the same day). Later that day in 1988, the peloton raced a flatter stage from Pau to Bordeaux – although, at 210km, it was hardly short.

Racing just 65km in the mountains as the riders will on stage 17 at this year's Tour de France is unprecedented – as is the Formula 1-like start, with the riders organised on a grid according to their overall ranking. Riders will have to warm up like they've never warmed up before: the race starts in Bagnères-de-Luchon and immediately takes the riders up the Col de Peyresourde. It may not be the hardest climb, but climbing from the gun is going to be hard, especially when many of the leaders' domestiques will be fighting to make their way back up to the front of the race thanks to the unusual grid-style start.

Later – although not that much later – the final ascent of the Col de Portet will be a gruelling one. At 2,215m, it's the highest point of the race, and the first rider to the top will win both this original stage and the Souvenir Henri Desgrange – the prize awarded to whoever passes the Tour's highest climb in the lead each year.




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