Stage 17 Embrun to Chorges ITT 32km
Back to the chrono racing today, a 33km hilly and technical (flash term for lots of turns) course that wouldn’t favour the pure chrono riders but the GC riders. Therefore, no point in selecting Der Panzerwagen. Great for the spectators though, most TTs are pretty boring in person but a hilly TT always gives you more enjoyment (ie the sight of pain on faces for longer)…and by the end of the stage we were fully on the edge of the seat, even to the point where we swapped the TT onto the big screen and relegated Iron Chef to the picture-in-picture.
There was a risk of rain throughout the morning that manifested itself midway through the race and throughout the day at different points on the course. This seemed to torture the minds of Pierre Rolland and Cadelephant who both notched up woeful times.
Let’s spare a thought for Jean-Christophe Peraud who crashed while doing a recon on the course. He was dashed off to hospital for scans that showed a cracked collarbone. This wasn’t enough to keep him from the start line to continue on with the Tour. Chapeau JC!
Westra set the first time that endured until Izaguirre took the hotseat. He barely got to get settled before Tejay VG took the fastest time.
Due to the unique course today, the bike of choice were less than uniform. Some riders were using a road frame with clip ons, some a full TT bike, Some a road bike until the top of the final climb then a TT bike from the roof of the team car to the end. We always had a pang of anxiety when someone jumped off their bike at the top of the climb to swap onto another bike. Just more potential for problems if you ask us.
With less than 20 riders to come in Valverde came through with a time almost a minute under TJV. While the focus moved to the big hitters coming through the intermediate checks, poor old Jean Christophe Peraud binned it again on the same shoulder for the second time of the day, this time only 2km from the finish. I can only guess that he was less than interested getting up again and at that point abandoned the Tour.
The fastest time soon fell in Rodriguez’s lap which maybe (hopefully!) is an indication of him finding some form for the last week. You have to love watching “Purito” when he is on song.
But it wasn’t to last with Contador beating his time by 1 second. Now all were waiting for Froome, who was dealing with rain on the descent and looked like he was a man racing safely and with a fair old time buffer to second than a man chasing for the yellow jersey.
Looks though can be deceiving. Coming into the finish line it was clear that Froome was going to win in a canter, beating Contador by 9 seconds. Froome now has 3 stage wins in a so far dominant performance at this Tour!
Tomorrow is basically set to be the biggest day in our life. We would be surprised if it wasn’t yours too. Alpe d’Huez twice.. we can’t wait!