Finally the Tour de France hits the high Alps with the first of two mammoth days that look set to define a closely contested Tour.
Stage 17 takes the race to its highest point. So far we have seen some steep but relatively short climbs of 5km to 10km though the various mountains – today sees brutal tests of stamina.
The first beast comes just before the hallway point with the monstrous 24km long ascent of the Col de la Croix de Fer. An hour of climbing is a daunting prospect, although we may not see fireworks as there is worse to come…
After a sharp descent, the riders face up to the twin peak climb of the Col de Telegraphe and Col de Galibier, 35km of climbs with barely a respite to a height of 2642m. The 28km descent will be tough on rubber-legs and whilst long, gives little chance for dropped riders as time gaps at the Galibier summit tend to be too great to overcome.
All those in hot pursuit of Chris Froome know they have these two days in which to find some time, as he will undoubtedly be best at Saturday’s time trial.
The Croix de Fer could be ridden hard – Sky won’t want attacks, but the challengers will want to try and strip Froome of much of his support. The Galibier will then be the launch-pad for trying to distance an isolated Froome, easier to type than to do.
These monster climbs are a whole different test, and we could see a bit of a shake-up. We expect to see Alberto Contador, now a reasonable distance behind, turn early aggressor and look to win a stage with a long break. That could shake up the day.
Froome is likely to ride defensively – he doesn’t need to win the race here, and he has a big test on Stage 18 as well. Of the main contenders, Romain Bardet and Mikel Landa may be better suited to this test than Rigoberto Uran, Fabio Aru, and Dan Martin, whilst we maintain hopes of a good show from Louis Meintjes who could make a surprise late bid for the white jersey.
If there is a break, then Alpine suspects Tony Gallopin, Carlos Bentacur, Daniel Navarro, Diego Ulissi and Serge Pauwels are likely to be involved, and possibly French youngster Guillame Martin.
Bardet looks the mostly likely of the big guns, he could make a bid on the Galibier, but has also been aggressive in descents and could break free for a win.
Away from the big guns, Serge Pauwels has been our go to rider to win a mountain break and has been a little unlucky not to land one and may be worth another go along with Diego Ulissi. Each way terms are stingy, so we will have 3 wins bets in our armoury.
Recommendations: To win Stage 17,
Romain Bardet, 1pt win, 8/1 Bet365, Skybet
Serge Pauwels, 1pt win, 50/1 Skybet
Diego Ulissi, 1pt win, 80/1 generally available
Please subscribe for notification of up-to-date tips and news, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.