Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) triumphed on stage 17 of the Tour de France, beating Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in a sprint to the line of the summit finish.
However, Vingegaard retains the yellow jersey for stage 18, after sticking with the two-time defending champion throughout the entire stage.
The GC group of Vingegaard, Pogačar, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) increased the intensity heading up the category one climb of Col de Val Louron-Azet with 25km remaining, constantly picking off the 15-rider breakaway on the mountain. Kuss and Thomas eventually couldn't manage to hang on, though, as McNulty led the two GC rivals up the mountain.
Pogačar launched his first attack near the summit, but Vingegaard managed to answer that question by sticking to the Slovenian's wheel. McNulty caught back up during the descent, and Stage 17 still had another category one climb for the summit finish at Peyragudes left. McNulty continued to lead his teammate into the final kilometre, but no attack seemed forthcoming as Vingegaard planted himself between the UAE Team Emirates riders.
Indeed, Vingegaard launched an explosive sprint against Pogačar as they headed towards the line, but the Slovenian fought back, passing the Tour leader into the final hundred metres to take the stage win. McNulty finished in third.
Despite losing time to the front two riders, Geraint Thomas remains in third place overall, after finishing in fourth and 2-07 back on Vingegaard and Pogačar.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage 17 saw the Tour de France visit the Pyrenees, with a short but gruelling 130km mountain stage from Saint-Gaudens to Peyragudes.
With three category one climbs - including a summit finish to Peyragudes - and a category two climb all coming in the final 70km of the race, plenty of opportunities were available for attacks to form.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) made his intentions known on stage 16, taking the fight to yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) with multiple attacks on both the climbs and descents. He couldn't make these stick, however, and still sat 2-22 back on GC coming into the seventeenth day. The Slovenian had also lost Rafał Majka, who withdrew due to an injury, making his task even tougher.
The opening 60km of the stage saw multiple attacks continuously come and go along the false flat, but nothing managed to stick. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won the intermediate sprint to Le Barthe-de-Neste, with Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) coming second to further highlight his dominance in the points classification.
The peloton reached the first category one climb of the day at Col d'Aspin - a 12km climb a 6.6% - just before the 70km remaining mark. Attacks here finally started to stick, with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Qazaqstan) managing to open up some distance between themselves and the bunch.
Pinot summited the mountain first, while a chasing group of 15 riders slowly gained on them 15 seconds behind. Simon Geschke (Cofidis) crossed the line third in order to gain mountains points so he can hang onto the polka-dot jersey. The peloton were 1-15 behind the duo out front by this point.
Lutsenko and Pinot reached the foot of the Hourquette d'Ancizan climb two minutes ahead, while the chasing group behind was 35 seconds. Romain Bardet (Team DSM) had bridged across by this point as he looked to move further up in the general classification, being 6-37 behind Vingegaard overall.
With Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) dragging the peloton along and taking 30 seconds out of the time deficit, Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) fell out the back. Tom Pidcock also started to slip back, leaving Geraint Thomas with only Jonathan Castroviejo and Dylan Van Baarle further up the road as part of the 15-rider chasing group.
Once again, Pinot summited Hourquette d'Ancizan first, but was only a minute ahead of the GC group with Lutsenko heading into the final 46km and two category one climbs. The gap to the peloton grew slightly during the descent, but the chasing group - which contained Bardet - eventually caught the two leading riders. With two riders dropping from the chasing group earlier, this consequently formed a leading break of 15 riders.
Heading up the Col de Val Louron-Azet, plenty of riders from the breakaway started to fall back, as the GC group simply overtook them. Only Pogačar, Vingegaard, Thomas, Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) were left at this point, with the latter leading the way. Riders were constantly being picked off, with only Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-EasyPost) left 30 seconds further up the mountain.
Both Kuss and Thomas were dropped 3km from the summit of the mountain, though, as the trio of Vingegaard, Pogačar and McNulty eventually passed everyone. McNulty led the way, with the yellow jersey wearer on Pogačar's wheel.
Towards the summit, Pogačar attacked, leaving McNulty after his stunning effort up the mountain. Vingegaard, though, followed out of the saddle, answering the attack by sticking to his wheel. During the descent McNulty regained ground on the pair, leading them towards the summit finish at Peyragudes.
An 8.1km, 7.2% climb, Peyragudes offered opportunities for Pogačar to test Vingegaard's mettle once again. However, the two-time defending champion didn't look like he had the energy to make an attack as McNulty set a staggeringly fast pace at the front.
With Pogačar slightly losing the wheel of McNulty, Vingegaard decided to move into second place, between the UAE Team Emirates riders. This meant Pogačar attacked first, starting his sprint 500m from the line along the short but tough 16 per cent gradient.
Vingegaard soon passed him, but both riders struggled to explode away from one another. Ultimately, it was the Slovenian who just had enough left in the tank to kick again, sprinting away from Vingegaard to take the stage win. While he only moves to within 2-18 of the Dane with the extra four bonus seconds he took, Pogačar could use the victory in the mental battle for the final mountain day on stage 18.
Geraint Thomas crossed the line 2-07 back on the two leaders, all but ending his hopes of another Tour de France win. However, he comfortably finished in fourth on the stage, ensuring he is well-positioned on GC to take third overall.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022, STAGE 17 RESULTS
1. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-25-51
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 32s
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-07
5. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan, at 2-34
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 2-38
7. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 3-27
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora Hansgrohe, at 3-32
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at same time
10. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa Samsic
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 17
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, in 67-53-54
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-18
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-56
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkea-Samsic, at 7-53
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 7-57
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 9-21
7. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux, at 9-24
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 9-56
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, 14-33
10. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar, 16-35
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