Result: Alejandro Valverde stayed close to the King of the Mountain combatants for most of today’s stage before striking out on his own. Christopher Froome of Team Sky, and second place overall, mounted a furious chase down before slowing up to finish just ahead of team leader and yellow jersey wearer, Bradley Wiggins.
How it happened: There were four peaks on the 143km route today and it led to much jostling from the two men in contention for the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey. Thomas Voeckler and Fredrik Kessiakoff bust loose early on, with the Frenchman, Voeckler winning out. Vicenzo Nibali, sitting third in the General Classifications, briefly joined them but the peloton upped their pace and he dropped back.
Voeckler held off the Swede, Kessiakoff in the second climb of the day as the breakaway group gradually edged away from the yellow jersey grouping. Alejandro Valverde gained 25 points for winning the next ascent but the peloton were still keeping a close eye on Nibali and gobbling up the stragglers. Valverde was slowly reeled in by Froome and a pursuing group of 12 riders but he found an extra push to stay 19 crucial seconds clear and win his first stage since 2008.
Big winner: There were more than Valverde, the obvious choice, today. Voeckler’s dominance over Kessiakoff continued and the polka dot jersey looks safe in his possession. Tejay Van Garderen also did just enough to stay in front of his nearest rival Thibaut Pinot in the best young rider classifications.
One hopes that Froome will not wistfully look back upon this year’s event as one he could and should have won (or been allowed to win). Speaking to Eurosport after the race, he said:
We weren’t here focusing on stages. Our objective is to win the Tour overall. We have that secure up to this point so we have done a good job so far.”
Who is wearing what jersey?
- Yellow (Overall): Bradley Wiggins
- Green (Points): Peter Sagan
- Polka-Dot (Mountains): Thomas Voeckler
- White (Young Rider): Tejay Van Garderen
What about the Irish? Daniel Martin had another outstanding day, his second in succession, as he finished in the top 10. The Garmin Sharp rider was just 1:11 off Valverde and is now 36th overall. Nicolas Roche finished in 12th place, 1:30 behind the winner. He remains in 11th position in the G.C. Both men, howver, have gained significant time on their close rivals as the race nears its final few days.
What happens tomorrow then? Stage 18 goes from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde. The official tour website describes the 222km route as a ‘hop’ and predicts that there will be exciting sprints at the intermediate and closing stages.