Stage 17 Review
Stage winner: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Majka took his second stage of the race from the breakaway, attacking out of the second group on the road on the final climb, passing the leaders (with a brief respite and work from teammate Nicholas Roche) and ultimately dropping lone leader Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) to win by 29 seconds. It was another great display of climbing from Majka, who saved energy early to help Alberto Contador and then refocused his goals once Contador crashed out. As a reward, Majka got himself the win on a mountain stage while wearing the Polka Dot Jersey.
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
The script was the same as Risoul. Nibali waited until the last few kilometers and then attacked to ride at his own rate as his rate is higher than the others. Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale) was the only one who could follow and Nibali extended his lead further over everyone except Peraud, who was already over six minutes behind.
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Ho hum. Sagan just rolls in with the sprinters, waiting for his chance to win a stage (maybe Friday).
King of the Mountains: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Majka took the jersey yesterday. Today, he might have won it. He can still be caught by either Nibali of Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), but either scenario involves him scoring little to no points tomorrow, an unlikely happening in this race.
White Jersey: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Pinot came in with the same time as Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), his main rival here. Barring a terrible day tomorrow, Pinot has locked this up as he is significantly better in the time trial than Bardet. Attention now is to the podium, where Pinot is 3rd overall, but in a battle with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Peraud.
Tactical Masterclass: Tinkoff-Saxo
Nicholas Roche was great on the final climb. Far better was for Bjarne Riis to have Rafal Majka ease off and save some energy on the earlier climbs instead of chasing every KoM point on the course. This allowed him to have fresher legs to contest and win the stage and the bigger bounty of points at the end.
Tactical Blunder: Katusha
Joaquin Rodriguez missed the original break. As he needed mountain points, this meant his team had to chase the break to get him into it. While it happened, Rodriguez himself had no help in the break and was too spent to contest the stage win on the final climb.
Stage 18 - Pau - Hautacam
Expectations entering the stage: GC showdown for the podium and Nibali possibly attacking for the stage win to put a cap on his dominating race, especially since he is unlikely to beat Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in the time trial on Saturday.
Jersey’s in play
- Yellow Jersey - One last solitary time here. Nibali isn’t losing the jersey, but given the ability to lose 10 minutes on a stage like this for someone whose form wanes, the yellow jersey needs to be included here.
- Polka Dot Jersey - Unlikely, but Nibali or Rodrgieuz with a stage win could take this jersey.
- White Jersey - Bardet might go on the attack, but even if he somehow puts enough time into Pinot to get the jersey back, he will surely lose it in the time trial.
GC items of note: Expect more of the AG2R La Mondiale 1-2. Today, Bardet attacked early allowing Peraud to sit in and save energy. Expect the same today as Peraud has now emerged as the leader and true podium threat.
Stage Pick: Nibali
This stage just looks like a Nibali stage at this point. Nobody is able to climb with him (except maybe Majka) and he might go from a little further out to sweep the break up himself like he did at Chamrousse.