The British defending Tour champion finished in third place on stage 17 behind solo winner Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Colombian general classification rival Rigobero Uran (Cannondale-Drapac).
Slovenian former ski jumping junior world champion Roglič took his first Tour stage win in fine style, having attacked from the day’s escape group over the top of the Col du Galibier, and swooped to victory down the fast descent.
Behind him, the battle for general classification places was fought, with two distinct groups forming from the contenders group after the Galibier. Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) found himself on the wrong side of the split, and lost his second place overall after dropping half a minute at the finish.
Froome now sits 27 seconds ahead of Uran overall, with Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r) in third, also at 27 seconds. Aru slips to fourth at one minute and 24 seconds.
Contador on the attack
As expected on a day in the high mountains, a large escape group formed of 33 riders as they headed out of La Mure and towards the opening classified climb of the day, the Col d’Ornon. This group contained a combination of riders hunting for the stage win, those interested in KOM and intermediate sprint points and those aiming to get ahead to later support their general classification leaders.
Towards the top of the Col d’Ornon, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) attacked from the escape. De Gendt was looking for KOM points for himself, and Matthews was there to try and stop him for team mate and KOM leader Warren Barguil.
After Matthews pipped De Gendt to the KOM line, the two decided to stay away and built up a gap of over a minute on their former breakaway companions. The two continued into the intermediate sprint at Allemont, once again taken by Matthews.
On to the Col de la Croix-de-Fer, the two leaders were joined by Daniel Navarro (Cofidis).
Back in the Sky-led peloton, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) launched an attack on the Croix-de-Fer followed by Nairo Quintana (Movistar). However, Quintana still looked off his best climbing form and could not keep up with Contador, leaving the Spaniard to forge on alone.
As Matthews was dropped from the lead trio, De Gendt took the maximum KOM points ahead of Navarro.
Contador continued strongly on the climb, eventually catching up with the escape group and team-mate Jarlinson Pantano and Bauke Mollema. The three Trek riders then took control of the break and Navarro and De Gendt were caught with 89km to go.
Contador suffered a mechanical with 61km to go, and needed a change of bike. He waiting calmly for a new machine, and paced himself back up to the leaders. At this point, the peloton containing Froome was 3-45 back.
Trek continued to lead the pace-making on the Col du Télégraphe, with KOM contender Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) sharing some of the work and taking maximum points at the top of the category one ascent. Meanwhile, the peloton was becoming seriously whittled down as Sky – and in particular Michal Kwiatkowski – continued to set the pace, and Quintana was dropped.
After the short descent after the Télégraphe it was then on to the Galibier. Roglič led the way, creating a gap – and was followed by Contador and Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data). They were then joined by Mathias Frank (Ag2r), Darwin Atapuma (UAE) and Navarro to form six within the final 37km with three minutes on the Froome group.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was the first to attack from the Froome group. Kwiatkowski led the chase, but his pace was evidently too much for his team-mate Mikel Nieve, who swung off just before Kwiatkowski with 33km to go, leaving Froome with just Mikel Landa.
Soon after, the contenders group started to fragment, with attacks and regroupings. Aru was left behind, clawing his way back up, and best young rider Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) was temporarily distanced.
In the break, Roglič attacked with just over 5km of the Galibier to go, opening up a gap as Atapuma chased. Roglič took the Souvenir Henri Desgrange for cresting the Galibier first, the highest point of the 2017 Tour. He was followed by Atapuma as Barguil overtook Contador just before the summit.
Froome, Bardet, Landa and Uran distanced Aru near the top, and joined Contador and Barguil. Roglic continued to lead the race solo on the long, fast Galibier descent, one and a half minutes ahead of the Froome group. Aru joined up with Martin, Louis Meintjes (UAE), Contador, Frank and Atapuma, around 20 seconds behind Froome and with 14km to go.
While the Froome group worked well together, Aru’s group did not look as well organised and the gap between the two grew. Needing no help at the front of the race, Roglič slipped into time trial position, put his head down and forged ahead to take the victory.
In the fight for second and third place to grab some bonus seconds, Uran took second in a hard-fought sprint with Froome going past Bardet to claim third.
Everyone watched the clock to see where Aru would finish, and he came home just over 30 seconds adrift of Froome to lose his podium place.
Yates finished in 14th spot, losing some time to best young rider rival Meintjes, but nevertheless retaining the white jersey.
All change in the green jersey
Five-stage winner Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) was forced to abandon the race while wearing the green jersey of points classification leader after being caught up in a crash after 20km. Kittel came down with a number of other riders, including Briton Steve Cummings (Dimension Data).
He received attention from the race doctor for injuries to his right shoulder and leg, but withdrew from the race at the top of the Col de la Croix-de-Fer. The green jersey now passes to double stage winner Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), who had put himself into the day’s escape group to scoop up the intermediate sprint points.
Another rider caught in the same crash as Kittel was current King of the Mountains Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb). His position in the polka-dot jersey faced a challenge from Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) and De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), who had started the day in second and third in the KOM competition behind Barguil. In the end, Barguil secured points on the Galibier to keep the jersey.
The 2017 Tour de France continues in the Alps on Thursday, with another testing stage that finishes on the Col d’Izoard for the first time in the race’s long history. The race concludes in Paris on Sunday, July 23.
Tour de France 2017, stage 17: La Mure to Serre-Chevalier, 183km
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 5-07-41
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, in 1-13
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
5. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at same time
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1-16
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-43
8. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-44
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at same time
14. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 3-14
General classification after stage 17
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 73-27-26
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 27 secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 27 secs
4. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 53 secs
5. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1-24
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 2-37
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4-07
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 6-35
9. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 7-45
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 8-52