Chris Froome continued his dominance on stage 17 of the Tour de France, putting even more time into his rivals

Sky and Chris Froome are relentless

Mikel Nieve on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Mikel Nieve on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Their tactics may be quite dull, but you can’t help but admire the Team Sky climbers for the way they just shut down attacks.

We’ve been complaining for a few stages that no-one is willing to attack Chris Froome, and based on the events on the climb to Finhaut Emosson there’s no wonder why they’ve not bothered.

We had some moves made by Movistar and BMC – the two teams who really needed to bring this race alive – but Sky smothered all of them.

Firstly Alejandro Valverde went on a bit of a jaunt up the road, but quickly had two men in black and blue up alongside him and he didn’t try it again.

Then Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) had a go, but couldn’t make it more than 20m up the road without the Sky domestiques upping their tempo and dragging him back.

And then it was Richie Porte‘s (BMC) turn, followed by Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Fabio Aru (Astana) and that man Froome.

Aru and Quintana didn’t have much to give and Froome left them for dead with an attack of his own to bridge up to Porte, who he followed all the way to the line.

Sky’s dominance is suffocating, but their riding is incredibly effective.

End of the road for Quintana?

Nairo Quintana on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Nairo Quintana on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Can we wave goodbye to Nairo Quintana’s Tour de France hopes? He’s still ‘only’ 3-27 behind Froome, but looked out of sorts in the final kilometres of the climb to Finhaut Emosson.

He tried an attack, which was good to see, but it was soon nullified by Froome and then it was a long trip down Struggle Street for the Colombian on his country’s national day.

He was passed by Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), and finished 30 seconds down on Froome.

Not only is he not looking good, but Quintana also lost the great foil of Valverde. With the pair sitting fourth and fifth ahead of the stage, Valverde could be used to wear out Sky and set up Quintana for an attack.

He tried just that on the final climb but only succeeded in wearing himself out and dropping out the back of the peloton and dropping two minutes to Froome.

It’s not an insurmountable amount of time to make up, but if Froome and Sky continue in this vain, and Quintana struggles to find any kind of response to their dominance then this Tour will be out of his reach.


Watch: Tour de France 2016 stage 17 highlights


Yates he can

Adam Yates on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Adam Yates on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

While Quintana goes backwards, Adam Yates continues to impress, gaining more time on the Colombian and once again leading the biggest group of favourites over the line.

It always looks as though he’s struggling on the climbs, sitting at the back of the group like he does, but the man himself says, he feels more comfortable being the ‘gatekeeper’.

When it comes to going to the front, though, the man from Bury isn’t afraid to make a move – passing Quintana, Bardet and Aru in the last kilometre and now sits just 25 seconds down on Mollema.

Zakarin’s attack was about more than just a stage win

Ilnur Zakarin wins stage 17 of the Tour de France (Sunada)

Ilnur Zakarin wins stage 17 of the Tour de France (Sunada)

After the happenings of the past few days, Russian sport needed a good news story and Ilnur Zakarin delivered one on one of the race’s toughest stages.

Zakarin’s place at the Olympic Games next month is under threat by a possible blanket ban for Russian athletes after it was shown that hundreds of positive doping samples were made to disappear.

The Katusha man got himself in the breakaway when it finally went away after more than 60km and bided his time before making his move to go alone off the front.

With Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) and stage 15 winner Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) for company it looked to be a shoot-out for the stage win, but Zakarin burst away on the final climb and ground his way to victory on the dam.

It’s seven years since Sergey Ivanov took Russia’s last Tour de France stage win, with Zakarin becoming just the sixth man from his country to take a stage.

Porte begins his charge to the podium

Richie Porte and Chris Froome on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Richie Porte and Chris Froome on stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France

Had he not suffered an untimely puncture and endured the longest wheel change in history in the first week, Richie Porte might be sitting on the podium now.

But as it is the Australian has some time to make up, but he’s giving it his best shot to get back up the leaderboard and onto the podium.

He’s looked the strongest of Froome’s rivals for most of the last two weeks and showed again that he could have been a contender with a good attack off the front.

Despite wearing the red of BMC, it did look again like the olden days with Porte leading Froome to the line and the man from Down Under will probably be sick of seeing the yellow jersey holder on his wheel, but if it gets him into the top three in Paris I’m sure he’ll be happy.