The 2018 Tour de France will experiment with a new type of stage on Wednesday, and with the finish line in Paris fast approaching, Stage 17 could throw a wrench into the general classification.
At just 65 kilometres long, Stage 17 will be a mad run for the finish line at the top of the Col de Portet. The peloton will start on a grid, and the race start won’t be neutralised.
Global Cycling Network took a look ahead at the unique stage:
Route: From Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan
Profile: High Mountains
TV Info: Eurosport, ITV (UK), NBC (U.S.)
Live stream links: Eurosport Player, ITV Hub, NBC Sports App
Start Time: 2:15 p.m. BST/9:15 a.m. ET
Expected time of finish: After 4:30 p.m. BST/11:30 a.m. ET
Race leader Geraint Thomas won’t be too happy the Tour organisers decided Wednesday was the appropriate time to introduce this type of sprint stage, but for neutral viewers who have gotten tired of Team Sky’s dominance, Stage 17 could be just what they needed.
At just 65 kilometers, it’s a short one, but a quick look at the stage profile shows why. There’s barely a kilometer of flat roads in between the climbs and descents, not giving the riders a moment to recover.
Both of the first-category climbs are tricky ascents that will have an effect on the riders, and in all likelihood, we’ll see at least one or two contenders drop away. The real kick comes right at the end, however, on the slopes of the exposed, newly surfaced Col de Portet.
Because of the unique stage profile, the riders are likely to arrive at the base of the climb in small groups already. And with the way the gradiant ramps up and the wind starts to play as the riders climb higher, this ascent has the makings of a classification-decider:
Team tactics won’t play as much of a role here as they usually do―the teams have barely experienced anything like this and won’t know how to handle such a stage. It should be a test of pure strength and stamina, with the strongest rider finishing first.
While Stage 19 and its iconic Aspet, Tourmalet and Aubisque climbs may be the headliner of this year’s Tour in the Pyrenees, it’s Wednesday’s ride that is likely to have the biggest impact on the standings. This is one you will not want to miss, and due to the short distance, you’ll want to tune in from the very start.