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Stage 17 of the 2020 Tour de France, with its high altitude and severe gradients, was expected to be the centrepiece of Egan Bernal's bid to retain his title. Instead, the Colombian will not grace the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze at all after abandoning the Tour this morning. His GC challenge suddenly evaporated on the Grand Colombier on Sunday and Bernal lost another 27 minutes on the road to Villard de Lans yesterday. Ineos' announcement of his withdrawal early this morning came as little surprise. "Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him, and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing," said manager Dave Brailsford. Alasdair Fotheringham has the full story here.

Ineos Grenadiers’ Egan Bernal at the 2020 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Bernal had been lying 16th overall after yesterday's stage. The revised general classification looks like this ahead of stage 17:

1          Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma      70:06:47

2          Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates     00:00:40

3          Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Pro Cycling            00:01:34

4          Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Pro Team            00:01:45

5          Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 00:02:03

6          Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo    00:02:13

7          Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain McLaren 00:02:16

8          Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team      00:03:15

9          Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma   00:05:19

10        Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic    00:05:43

11        Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis         00:06:45

12        Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team     00:06:52

13        Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain McLaren        00:09:09

14        Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers       00:17:23

15        Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic    00:18:16

16        Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept       00:30:03

17        Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma          00:35:06

18        Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren 00:44:23

19        Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team       00:58:58

20        Carlos Verona (Spa) Movistar Team 01:01:58

Stage 17 is 170km in length and brings the Tour to its highest point at the finish line. There are just two climbs on the route, but they are brutes. The 2,000m-high summit of the hors categorie Col de la Madeleine (17.1km at 8.4%) comes after 107.5km, while the finish atop the Col de la Loze is some 2,304m above sea level and comes after a vicious hors categorie ascent that is 21.5km in length with an average gradient of 7.8%. The first man to the top claims the stage honours and the Souvenir Henri Desgrange, and the climb might just decide the outcome of the 2020 Tour.

The sting comes in the tail of this stage. The steepest part of the Col de la Loze comes in the final 4km, when the road has already climbed above 1800m. “It's quite unlike anything that's found in the Alps,” Patrick Fletcher writes of the dramatic finale to this stage. “Suddenly the Loze path begins and everything changes.

“There are hairpins, and there are longer straight sections, but above all there are nasty ramps that jut up almost vertiginously. This is far beyond the more irregular gradients found in the Pyrenees, and race director Christian Prudhomme has spoken of "a series of walls". He even name-dropped the Mur de Huy – the ultra-steep climb used at the end of Flèche Wallonne.

"You go around a hairpin, and you're coming up to a 'wall', but you're on a false flat – it's a continual changing of rhythm," Prudhomme said. "It's going to be an incredible finale because we've never had that kind of breaking-up of gradient, at that altitude. It doesn't exist – or it didn't, until now."

Read Patrick’s thoughtful preview of the stage and analysis of the GC situation here.

The peloton is assembling on the start line in Grenoble for the roll out in a few minutes, at 12.15 CET. After a neutralised zone of 6.5km, they are due to reach kilometre zero at 12.30

Although the Madeleine, the Col de la Loze and - especially - those vicious final kilometres dominate most people's thoughts, there will be another race within a race in the opening kilometres. Sam Bennett still has a 45-point lead over Peter Sagan in the points competition, and the Slovakian will surely look to make inroads into that buffer at the intermediate sprint at La Rochette after 45.5km. It could be a high-octane opening hour...

Primoz Roglic carries a lead of 40 seconds over his compatriot Tadej Pogacar into today's stage, but he knows the final climb could change the complexion of their duel. "I think it’s the Queen stage of the Tour, we finish at the highest point of the race this year and it’s just crazy hard," Roglic said. "The last five kilometres are really difficult, it’ll be a fight for every second.

"Tadej is the closest rival, and I expect he’ll try to attack," Roglic said. "The other guys will probably look after each other. Looking back at the mountain stages, normally Tadej was the strongest, so I need to focus on the best guys, focus on myself to do the best job, and that’s all I can do." 

Alasdair Fotheringham has the full story here.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

-170km

Francois Lemarchand waves the flag, and stage 17 of the Tour de France is formally underway. The attacks comes immediately...

Ben Hermans (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) are among the men trying to push clear in the opening kilometre.

De Gendt, Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) get a gap of 5 seconds or so, but there are plenty of teams eager to chase behind on this uncategorised drag out of Grenoble.

Peter Sagan is among the riders trying to get across, and the green jersey of Sam Bennett is stuck like a limpet to his rear wheel.

A sizeable group of 20 or so riders has a small gap, including Sam Bennett, Sagan, Matteo Trentin, as well as the original attacker De Gendt. Sagan knows there is an unclassified climb of Saint-Pierre-d'Allevard (7.3km at 3.7%) after 30km or so, and he will be desperate to try to shed the Irishman there.

-165km

That 20-man group has been more or less brought back, but the peloton is strung out in a long line with plenty of gaps emerging.  A trio of Ineos Grenadiers riders are now towards the front, trying to force a break clear.

-164km

Dylan van Baarle (Ineos) clips off the front and opens a small gap. He will hope for some company, otherwise this move will be snuffed out rapidly.

-162km

Van Baarle is brought back, and the process begins all over again. A lot of riders are very keen on getting up the road early today, and it could take some time for the break to form. Thomas De Gendt is again pushing on the front, trying to shake a group loose.

Acceleration follows acceleration at the front. Cees Bol tries to snap the elastic for Sunweb. The peloton is lined out behind him. Ineos are very prominent in trying to get a man up the road here.

A potentially pivotal moment in the hunt for the green jersey. Peter Sagan wheels to a halt at the rear of the bunch to get a bike change. He is now chasing back on through the team cars after a quick change. Bennett and Matteo Trentin, meanwhile, are among the clutch of riders chasing Bol at the head of the race.

-157km

Bol is brought back and then Neilands, Van Baarle, Luke Rowe and De Gendt try to force their way clear. Nothing doing yet. The bunch is strung out but still together, even if some riders at the back must feel increasingly like they are touching from a distance...

-153km

Thomas De Gendt attacks with purpose and opens a decent gap by himself. He has 13 seconds over the peloton. He will need some company, of course, but he's where he wants to be at this point in proceedings.

De Gendt is fully committed to his lone effort. Behind, riders are struggling to escape the clutches of the peloton and set out in pursuit of the Belgian.

-150km

De Gendt has 20 seconds over the peloton. Chris Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott) is in lone pursuit and there's a group featuring Julian Alaphilippe, Richard Carapaz, Luke Rowe and Oliver Naesen trying to come across. Bora-Hansgrohe, however, are chasing in the peloton, and it could all be back to square one soon.

Van Avermaet, Rowe, Carapaz et al are still trying gamely to escape the clutches of the peloton and get across to De Gendt.

-146km

This strong group of 20 or so chasers have caught De Gendt, and they have 22 seconds in hand on the peloton. This could be our early break.

This 21-man break has a lead of 22 seconds over a peloton where Movistar are leading the chase. 

-142km

In fact, there are 22 men off the front, but their gap is already dwindling: Richard Carapaz, Luke Rowe (Ineos), Felix Grossschartner, Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mikael Cherel, Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Julian Alaphilippe, Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Laurent Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Toms Skujins, Jasper Stuyvens (Trek-Segafredo), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Søren Kragh Andersen, Nikias Arndt (Sunweb), Chris Juul Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott), Dan Martin, Nils Politt, Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-Up Nation), Roger Kluge, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal),

-141.5km

The race is on the toughest part of the unclassified climb of Saint-Pierre-d'Allevard and a reduced peloton is upon the breakaway. Alaphilippe and Izagirre are among the riders who kick again in a bid to stay away. Carapaz, Dan Martin and Kamna go with them.

At the back of the peloton, meanwhile, a number of sprinters, including Andre Greipel and Caleb Ewan, have been distanced. It could be a long and lonesome day for them if the race doesn't settle down soon.

Alaphilippe, Carapaz, Dan Martin, Kamna and Izagirre are the survivors of the initial move, and they have a lead of 20 seconds over a fragmented peloton. The quintet are combining well, but will they be granted the freedom to establish a lead?

Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Marc Soler (Movistar) and Dani Martinez (EF Pro Cycling) are trying to bridge across to the five leaders but they are struggling to escape a peloton that is right on their coattails. 

-138km

Break:

Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peloton at 0:25

Martinez and the chasers have been brought back and now Dylan van Baarle is trying to bridge across to the escapees. Meanwhile, Sam Bennett and Peter Sagan watch one another near the front of a reduced bunch. They are just over the top of the unclassified climb, and the intermediate sprints is about 12km away.

-136km

Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) are extending their lead over the peloton, and the gap is touching half a minute.

-134km

Jumbo-Visma are coming to the front of the peloton to bring a degree of organisation to the front of the peloton. Roglic's men would doubtless prefer the break to establish enough of a lead for the race to settle down a little.

Daryl Impey (Mitchelon-Scott) is now trying to forge across alone to the five leaders, who have 28 seconds in hand on the yellow jersey group.

-131km

Jumbo-Visma spread across the road and the pace abates in the peloton. The break's advantage grows accordingly. 50 seconds the gap. 

Situation

Break:

Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Chaser at 0:25

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott)

Peloton at 1:07

-129km

5km to the intermediate sprint, where, as things stand, there is a maximum of 9 points on offer for Sagan and Bennett, who are both in the yellow jersey group. Good news for the Irishman, who is defending a 45-point lead in the standings.

-127km

Carapaz, Kamna, Dan Martin, Alaphilippe and Izagirre now have 2:00 over the peloton. This quintet has been granted their freedom for now. If they are given a little more leeway, they have the firepower to go all the way to the finish even on a day as arduous as this.

Impey is in no man's land, 40 seconds down on the five leaders. Unless they knock off the pace a little, he will struggle to make it across.

At the very back of the race, a dropped Caleb Ewan knows the speed has dropped in the peloton and he is battling through the race convoy to latch back on.

-124km

Julian Alaphilippe leads Dan Martin and the break through the intermediate sprint at La Rochette. Impey comes through the same point still 40 seconds down on the leaders. 

Back in the peloton, 3 minutes behind the break, Sagan sits on the wheel of Bennett ahead of the intermediate sprint. Kasper Asgreen and Michael Morkov are there to lead it out for Bennett.

Sam Bennett wins the sprint for 7th and it looks like Morkov pipped Sagan to 8th, which would mean that the Irishman has picked up two points on his rival for the green jersey.

Fine riding from Morkov, who led out Bennett and kept going to make sure Sagan lost out on a point. Bennett now has a 47-point lead in the points classification and he has overcome another obstacle on the road to Paris. Now he'll need to make it over the Madeleine and Col de la Loze, of course, but he has been surviving the mountains well to this point. 

-119km

The average speed thus far is a rasping 49.6kph, but the race has mercifully calmed a little. The five leaders now have 3:38 over the peloton, while the lone chaser Impey looks to have sat up. Caleb Ewan, meanwhile, has rejoined the peloton after being dropped on the early, unclassified climb.

-116km

Break:

Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Peloton at 3:57

One of the finest writers at the Tour de France also happens to be in a team car behind the peloton. Tom Southam is part of the EF Pro Cycling management and his rider Rigoberto Uran is currently third overall, 1:34 off Roglic. His race has been consistent rather than spectacular thus far, but his ability to last the course in a hard race like this means that he is well positioned to claim the second podium finish of his Tour career.

“Rigo is going well and he’s come a long way from his Vuelta crash from last year. He’s stepped back up to becoming the leader. We turned up here with him, Dani and Sergio and one way or another he’s at the top of the pile. That’s great because he’s a leader that we’re accustomed to riding for, and we know how he works, and how he operates,” Southam told Cyclingnews.

 “We go to high altitude, which is in his favour, but everyone is riding the same race now because you’re either close and in the mix or a long way away. I think that that the TT also suits Rigoberto better than some of the guys around him or behind him on GC. The Tour seems to be hanging in the balance and has been for ages but then all of a sudden, at some point in the mountains, it’s going to be over. It could be as soon as stage 17.”

CANTAL FRANCE SEPTEMBER 11 Rigoberto Uran of Colombia and Team EF Pro Cycling during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 13 a 1915km stage from ChtelGuyon to Pas de PeyrolLe Puy Mary Cantal 1589m TDF2020 LeTour on September 11 2020 in Cantal France Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

-108km

Tony Martin sets the tempo in the peloton for Jumbo-Visma, 4:30 down on the five leaders. "Earlier on in the race I thought that Jumbo-Visma would be more tired by now but they didn’t have to do that much in the second week because of the green jersey competition and they’re actually as strong as ever now," Southam said.

Away from the Tour de France, the riders at the Tour of Luxembourg have protested about the safety conditions on the race. Riders had spoken to race organisers about the dangers out on the road before stage 2 and, when they encountered further problems, they stopped racing after 18km and demanded action. After negotiations with race organisers and the UCI commissaries, the riders agreed to neutralise the 80km ride to Syren and then race the final 42km around Hesperang on the planned circuit. The race organisers announced a new stage start would be given in Syren. Read more here.

The riders at the Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg talk about road safety after neutralising stage 2

(Image credit: Joe Geimer/Twitter )

-100km

Into the final 100km for the leaders Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe). They have 5:11 over a peloton that is being led by Tony Martin and Jumbo-Visma.

The race is a little over 20km from the base of the Col de la Madeleine, the first of the day's two, brutally tough classified climbs. Tadej Pogacar and his UAE Team Emirates squad sit in line behind Jumbo-Visma for the time being.

-94km

Alaphilippe, Carapaz, Martin, Kamna and Izagirre are still padding out their advantage ahead of the Col de la Madeleine. The gap is out to 5:24.

-88km

By making the break again today, yesteday’s stage winner Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) is a real threat in the king of the mountains classification. “I’ll try to make it in the break again and maybe get some points for the king of the mountains jersey. It depends on how day unfolds, but I have an eye on the polka dot jersey now,” Kämna told Eurosport before the start. “Winning a stage was my first goal but now I’m close in the king of the mountains.”

(Image credit: Getty Images)

-84km

The five escapees are 5km from the base of the Col de la Madeleine with a lead of 5:55 over the peloton. Skies are blue overhead for the time being, but there is the possibility of thunder showers at the finish on the Col de la Loze this afternoon.

-80km

Alaphilippe, Martin, Kamna, Carapaz and Izagirre hit the foot of the mighty Col de la Madeleine. The ascent is 17.1km at 8.4% and one of the toughest in the entire Tour.

Dan Martin fractured his sacrum in a crash at the Dauphine and his participation in the Tour was uncertain until days before the start. He understandably struggled in the opening phase of the race but he was up the road on Friday and now looks to be finding his rhythm. He's given himself a chance of competing for the stage today and he is also hitting upon some form ahead of a very demanding World Championships road race in Imola a week on Sunday.

GRAND COLOMBIER FRANCE AUGUST 09 Daniel Martin of Ireland and Team Israel StartUp Nation during the 32nd Tour de LAin 2020 Stage 3 a 145km stage from Saint Vulbas to Grand Colombier 1501m tourdelain TOURDELAIN TDA on August 09 2020 in Grand Colombier France Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Landismo lives. Bahrain-McLaren come to the front of the peloton on the lower slopes of the Col de la Madeleine. Mikel Landa has one of the best climbing support outside of Jumbo-Visma on this race - Damiano Caruso, in particular, has been very impressive thus far - and he seems to reckon that he may as well make use of them.

LARUNS FRANCE SEPTEMBER 06 Mikel Landa Meana of Spain and Team Bahrain Mclaren Richie Porte of Australia and Team Trek Segafredo Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates Breakaway during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 9 a 153km stage from Pau to Laruns 495m TDF2020 LeTour on September 06 2020 in Laruns France Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

-77km

The Bahrain-McLaren pace-setting is shedding the peloton of some riders and they've also shorn the break's lead back to 5:10.

Jumbo-Visma's Tony Martin and Amund Grondahl Jansen are among the riders distanced by Sonny Colbrelli's pace-making for Bahrain-McLaren. The sprinters, including both Sam Bennett and Peter Sagan, have also relented. 

-76.5km

Break:

Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Peloton at 4:40

Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) has been dropped by the yellow jersey group. The Colombian is in the company of Connor Swift and he appears to be in some difficulty. There are at least 40 or so riders still in the yellow jersey group, where Bahrain-McLaren are setting the tempo.

Sonny Colbrelli still sets the tempo in the peloton while Nairo Quintana loses more ground. This could be a very unusual day of racing. The break's lead is down to 4 minutes with 13.3km of the Madeleine still to go.

Thibaut Pinot and king of the mountains Benoit Cosnefroy are also among the riders jettisoned out the back by Colbrelli's tempo on the front. 

-75km

Julian Alaphilippe leads the break and his efforts have seen a flagging Lennard Kamna dropped from the move.

Alaphilippe leads Martin, Izagirre and Carapaz on the Madeleine, while Kamna loses ground. Colbrelli keeps leading the peloton, which has closed to within 3:33.

-74km

Landa moves up towards the front of the yellow jersey group, where four of his Bahrain-McLaren sit in the first positions. The gap to the break has dropped to 3:40.

Situation

Break:

Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 

Chaser:

Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Peltoton at 3:40

Chaser at 5:20

Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic)

Green jersey group at 6:56

Colbrelli has always had the ability to get over a hill, but this is the Col de la Madeleine and he continues to set the tempo after 7km of climbing. Landa still has five Bahrain-McLaren teammates for company, while Jumbo-Visma sit behind them.

Landa began the day in 7th overall, 2:16 off the maillot jaune, and he gives the impression that he is willing to risk everything to move up on this, the toughest stage of the race. Colbrelli keeps channeling Wout van Aert on the front.

-72km

Colbrelli swings over after a remarkable shift on the Madeleine. Wout Poels takes up the reins for Bahrain-McLaren with a little under 10km of the climb to go.

There are still 30 or more riders in this yellow jersey group, which is 3:30 down on the escapees. Bahrain-McLaren still lead, with delegations from Jumbo-Visma,  UAE Team Emirates and Trek-Segafredo lined up behind them.

-71km

The former teammates Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in the break, but Richard Carapaz and Gorka Izagirre are still hanging on. 

Wout Poels leads Matej Mohoric, Pello Bilbao, Damiano Caruso and his leader Mikel Landa with 8.5km of the Madeleine to go. Poels, remember, crashed heavily on the opening day and looked to be struggling to stay in the Tour during the opening week, but he has managed to ride his way into this race. Poels was given the most combativity prize for his travails to remain in the Tour on stage 5.

Tour de France 2020 107th Edition 5th stage Gap Privas 183 km 02092020 Wout Poels NED Bahrain McLaren photo POOL David StockmanBelgaBettiniPhoto2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)