Miguel Ángel López (Astana) took victory on the queen stage of the 2020 Tour de France, as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) extended his overall lead over Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
López went away from the two Slovenians and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) with 2.4km to go to the top of the Col de la Loze summit finish, he set off in pursuit of Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) just up the road.
The pair then sat at around 10 seconds ahead of Roglič and Pogačar until Kuss backed off and returned to the yellow jersey behind. López pressed on though, with Roglič then setting off to try and catch the Colombian inside the final 2km.
With Porte already dropped, that move put second overall Pogačar in trouble, as he struggled to maintain the pace of compatriot. López was able to maintain his strong effort to deny Roglič from coming back to him, with the race leader more focused on keeping Pogačar at bay as he occasionally looked to be making headway into the gap.
In the end López was able to hold off Roglič and take his maiden Tour de France stage victory, as well as move up to third overall. Roglič extended his lead in the yellow jersey with one major mountain stage to go before the stage 20 time trial, with Pogačar now at 57 seconds back in second place.
How it happened
The 2020 Tour de France headed into its queen stage on the 17th day of racing, with two massive climbs to tackle in the Alps.
The riders would have to first tackle the Col de Madeleine (17.1km, 8.4 per cent) before a summit finish on the Col de la Loze (21.5km, 7.8 per cent), with the finish line coming after 170km and at 2304m in altitude.
Before they reached the first climb with 90km gone, there were flat roads and an uncategorised climb which could provide a platform for a breakaway to form.
Despite a huge amount of attacking in the early kilometres, a large breakaway wasn’t able to stay away from the peloton, with five men eventually getting a decent advantage after 35km. Those five, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Richard Carapaz (Ineos), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), covered 49.5km in the first hour of racing and built up to a gap of 5-30 to the bunch.
Behind, after 45km, Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was able to extend his lead in the green jersey by beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the intermediate sprint.
As the breakaway rode up the Col de Madeleine, stage 15 winner Kämna was the first to drop away with 12.6km to the summit and 75km to the finish, with the break’s advantage reducing as they progressed to the summit.
For the first time in this Tour, Bahrain-McLaren were the team to lead the peloton and set the pace ahead of Jumbo-Visma. That pace saw the likes of Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) dropped and the gap to the remaining quartet in the breakaway down below two minutes with 65km to go and 2km to the summit.
The break held an advantage of 1-22 over the Madeleine, with Carapaz taking maximum king of the mountains points.
On the descent, Alaphilippe pushed on and put Dan Martin in trouble, with the Irishman dropped on the descent and eventually falling back to the peloton with 34km to go.
Alaphilippe’s pace on the descent was rapid enough to gap Carapaz and Izagirre at times, but the three remained together to the valley road at the bottom with the gap now extended out to 2-30.
Bahrain-McLaren continued to lead the pack, hoping to set up Mikel Landa on the final climb, and pegged the leading trio to 1-50 as they hit the opening slopes of the climb with 21.5km to go.
Carapaz, Alaphilippe and Izagirre pushed the advantage out to 2-13 on the opening few kilometres of the Col de la Loze, but that began to wane again towards the halfway mark of the climb, with Alaphilippe finally calling it quits with 12.5km to go.
As the Bahrain train pushed on, the two leaders hung out front by a thread at just 24 seconds into the final 9.5km.
Izagirre was the next to drop about a kilometre later, with Carapaz valiantly holding on solo at the front of the race. The Ecuadorian, pursued now by just a small group of the GC contenders and their remaining domestiques, was able to push his advantage out to around 40 seconds with 5.6km to the summit.
Despite all of Bahrain’s work Landa quickly fell away as the gradients and pace increased inside the final 4km. Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling) was out the back with 3.7km to go, as Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) also struggled to hold on to the yellow jersey group.
Miguel Ángel López was the first from the GC group to attack with 3.5km to go followed by Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss and Richie Porte, as Enric Mas (Movistar) was put into trouble.
Carapaz was quickly caught by that increase in pace with 2.9km to go, which spelled a brief hiatus in attacking. Kuss then appeared to drift away from the group over a steep ramp, but was then chased by López, with a 10 second gap between them and Roglič and Pogačar.
Kuss then sat up to wait for Roglič with 2.4km to go as López pressed on. Kuss led Roglič into the final 2km before the race leader attacked himself, with Porte now dropped and Pogačar put into trouble.
Pogačar then dropped to around 18 seconds back as Roglič tried to make inroads into López’s advantage. That hope of catching the Colombian and taking the stage win quickly seemed unrealistic, with Pogačar looking more likely to clamber his way back to the yellow jersey.
In the end, no-one was able to close the gaps, with López able to hold on to take his first Tour stage win and Roglič able to take 15 seconds from the white jersey Pogačar and extend his overall lead.
The Tour de France continues with another brutal mountain stage on Thursday, with a 175km stage from Méribel to La Roche-sur-Foron .
Tour de France 2020, stage 17: Grenoble to Méribel Col de la Loze (170km)
1. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, in 4-49-08
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 15s
3. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 30s
4. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 56s
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-01
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 1-12
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-20
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
9. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 1-59
10. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-13
General classification after stage 17
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 74-56-04
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 57s
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 1-26
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 3-05
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 3-14
6. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at 3-24
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 3-27
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 4-18
9. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 7-23
10. Alejandro Valerde (Esp) Movistar, at 9-31