Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) climbed to a superb victory in Courchevel on stage 17 of the Tour de France as Jonas Vingegaard increased his overall lead to more than seven minutes.
After sterling work from his Australian teammate Ben O’Connor, Gall attacked from the breakaway on the brutal slopes of the Col de la Loze - taking the souvenir Henri Desgrange in the process - and soloed to the line in Courchevel. Simon Yates (Jayco-AIUla) took second place and improved his position in the general classification.
Behind the Austrian, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) cracked on the slopes of the final climb. Jonas Vingegaard increased his lead over the Slovenian to 7-35 in the fight for overall victory and extinguished any hope Pogačar may have had of wearing the yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday.
As was widely expected, the hors categorie Col de la Loze shattered the race in the stage finale. The remnants of the day's 34 man breakaway - which included climbers of the calibre of Yates, David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Bahrain Victorious duo Pello Bilbao and Jack Haig - exploded on the brutal gradients as Gall attacked on one of the toughest sections.
Behind them Pogačar suddenly blew up in the yellow jersey group and was quickly distanced by Jumbo-Visma and Vingegaard.
Gall held on to take the biggest win of his career as Vingegaard all but sealed a second successive overall victory.
How it happened
Stage 17 of the Tour de France was the “Queen Stage” of this year’s race and took the 155 riders that started the day over four categorised climbs including the Cormet de Roselend and the hors categorie giant Col de la Loze.
Attacks came almost instantly after race director Christian Prudhomme officially got the stage underway in Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc.
Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) animated the start of the 167 kilometre stage in the battle for the Polka-dot jersey. The Italian was part of an early move containing several riders including Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost). Ciccone took maximum points on the first climb of the day - the Col de la Saisies - before following that up with maximum points at the top of the Cormet de Roselend shortly after.
Along with Soudal Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe and Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech), the Italian rider attacked on the descent of the Col de la Saisies and pushed on to establish what would be the day’s breakaway.
Several groups of riders eventually came across to the lead trio on the Cormet de Roselend which eventually made for a lead group of 34 riders including multiple high profile riders. Jack Haig and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) made the select group along with Ben O’Connor and Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën). Simon Yates (Jayco-AIUla) was present as was Mattias Sjkelmose (Lidl-Trek).
However, the biggest talking point was the fact that both Jumbo-Visma and UAE had two riders each in the breakaway. Wilco Kelderman and Tiesj Benoot were both present for Jumbo along with Marc Soler and Rafał Majka for UAE.
The 34 man group pushed on as they tackled the Cormet de Roselend and the following climb, eventually increasing their advantage to more than three minutes. Meanwhile Jumbo-Visma drove the pace on the front of the peloton as Ciccone swept up the mountain points at the top of the Côte de Longefoy.
Next up was the Col de la Loze. Haig and O’Connor led the charge into the final climb and continued to swap turns on the front of the breakaway as they looked to increase the group’s advantage over the yellow jersey group. The breakaway shattered on the brutal gradients of the climb and both Ciccone and Alaphilippe were quickly distanced.
With 15 kilometres left to race and eight kilometres of the Col de la Loze remaining, Tadej Pogačar suddenly cracked in the yellow jersey group and was soon left behind. Meanwhile up front in the breakaway, Gall launched a vicious acceleration with 13 kilometres to go and disappeared into the distance in search of the stage win.
After getting word that Pogačar was suffering, Tiesj Benoot ramped up the pace on the front of the GC group and launched Vingegaard up the road.
The Danish rider soon left all of his rivals behind and attacked on the steepest sections. After reaching his Jumbo teammate Kelderman, the Dane paused for a brief moment before attacking again towards the summit of the climb.
Suddenly Vingegaard and Kelderman were forced to unclip and come to a standstill as a motorbike stalled in front of an organisers car in the race convoy. Vingegaard and Kelderman both pushed through the crowds at the roadside before continuing up the road in search of Gall and Yates.
Meanwhile Gall had already crossed the summit of the Col de la Loze and was onto the descent towards the final ramp up to Courchevel.
In the end the Austrian held on to take a memorable stage win as Vingegaard all but sealed a second consecutive Tour victory.
The Danish rider now leads Tadej Pogačar by seven minutes and 35 seconds.
Tour de France stage 17: Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc to Courchevel 166km
1. Felix Gall (Aus) AG2R Citroën, in 04-49-08
2. Simon Yates (Gbr) Jayco-AIUla, at 34s
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-38
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-52
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-09
6. Tobias Johannessen (Nor) Uno-X, at 2-39
7. Chris Harper (Aus) Jayco-AIUla, at 2-50
8. Rafał Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates, at 3-43
9. Adam Yates (Gbr) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 3-49
General classification after stage 17
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma in 67-57-51
2. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 7-35
3. Adam Yates (GBr) UAE Team Emirates, at 10-45
4. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers, at 12-01
5. Simon Yates (Gbr) Jayco-AIUla, at 12-19
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 12-50
7. Jai Hindley (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 13-50
8. Felix Gall (Aut) AG2R Citroën, at 16-11
9. Sepp Kuss (Usa) Jumbo-Visma, at 16-49
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 17-57
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