'A beautiful stage with great racing': Teams reflect on the Tour de France's shortest stage

The Tour took on its shortest stage of 65km on Wednesday, but was it a success?

The GC favourites on stage 17 of the 2018 Tour de France (Sunada)

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The Tour de France's record setting short stage created "beautiful" racing, say teams.

The riders led by yellow jersey leader Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) raced 65 kilometres on stage 17 through the Pyrenees, starting in Formula One type grids and without a rolling neutral zone.

"It was great, finally a beautiful stage that brought out great cycling," said one of UAE Team Emirates's managers, Mauro Gianetti. "Nairo tried, Dan Martin, Roglič, Dumoulin... Everyone tried with the legs they had.

>>> Chris Froome commits to support Geraint Thomas for Tour de France win after struggling on stage 17 finish

"It was a true climbing stage, short where everyone had courage to try. A stage of 200K is scary, not just the stage, but how you come out of it for the next day."

This was the shortest road stage in 33 years, since 1985 when the riders faced two split stages – which are now not used in Grand Tours. The 1996 Tour featured a 46-kilometre stage, but that only came at the last minute when bad weather forced the short distance.

Out of 65 kilometres, 43 were uphill and included the finish up the Col du Portet. Making it more stressful, the race began from the start instead of rolling through a neutralised zone with the official kilometre zero out of town.

"Modern cycling is hand-made for these kinds of stages," said manager of French team Cofidis, Cedric Vasseur. "Of course, we can't do it all the time. The short stage is something great. It's good, when you have a 230-kilometre stage, boring and without action... Today we had the opposite.

"This short format people can easily watch on TV. We need to see the TV figures, but it showed us that Quintana is still able to win a stage, Froome is tired from the Giro and Bardet will not be on the podium of the Tour."

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the stage from an attack early on the final climb and Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates) followed later. Geraint Thomas watched his classification rivals and maintained his yellow jersey, extending his lead over Dumoulin with a late attack.

"They are a lot of work for the teams, riders warming up at 9:30 this morning," Vasseur added. "People think it's 65 kilometres and it gives people time to recover, but it's totally the opposite. A lot of riders will be tired from the stage, but the good point is that we had an exciting stage."

Most, however, agreed that the grid start in Bagnères-De-Luchon failed. The riders sat positioned in the town according to their classification after stage 16, but moments after the start, they were bunched and it rendered the idea useless.

"It was definitely different," said Thomas, who had the first spot. "It was nice for morale standing there with that jersey. But I don't think it really had any bearing on the start."

"I don't think it had any impact, to be honest," said Team Sky boss David Brailsford. "It looked good on TV, but one thing I didn't particularly like was putting all the sprinters at the back of the field - I'm not sure that's entirely fair.

Geraint Thomas lines up in the grid start on stage 17 of the 2018 Tour de France (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

"But the best guys were still left at the head of the race and the shortness of the stage didn't change the nature of the race, the cream still rose to the top. I'll have to speak to the guys and see what they made of it."

"Well, I don't think it changed anything for the group," Gianetti added. "It wasn't that important. The leaders ended up waiting for their team-mates."

"I think that people talk about it but in reality, no," Vasseur said when asked if it made a difference. "We know that riders don't start like F1 at 250kph. With the cycling speed, it doesn't change anything."

"It was fun," BMC Racing team boss Jim Ochowicz explained. "I was right there, it looked good. It wasn't goofy. I loved it.

"Worth repeating? Yeah, maybe once in a Grand Tour but not every day."

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