Sky and Chris Froome are relentless
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.