I’m glad I was on the right side of the split. Leader Chris Froome, on the breakup of the peleton resulting from cross-winds in Stage 16
Down to the wire
By Roger Childs
In recent years with five stages to go, the leader has usually had a comfortable three to four minute lead. Not so in the 2017 Tour de France.
Yellow jersey wearer, Chris Froome has a slender 18 second advantage over Italian Fabio Aru, and the top four are separated by only 30 seconds.
Before rolling into the finish on the Champs–Élysées at the weekend, there are two mountain stages and a time trial.
The leader would like an unbeatable lead on the road to Paris, with no pressure to defend his top place in the general classification. But will it happen?
Exciting Stage 17
The route took the 140+ riders from the upper reaches of the Loire Valley eastwards up and over the Massif Central to the lower Rhone Valley.
However, it was not all plain riding, as once over the Rhone River the riders struck the infamous Mistral cross-winds. In the past these conditions have often split up the peloton into groups.
It happened again, and fifth placed Irishman, Dan Martin, ended up in the second group and couldn’t catch the leaders.
There were no changes in the top four places, but Martin is now out of contention.
The Stage was won by Australian, Michael Matthews, who closed the gap for the sprinters’ green jersey. Marcel Kittel has won five stages and amassed 373 points, but picked up none on Stage 16. Matthews garnered all the sprint points, and is now just 29 behind the German.
The crucial mountain stages
There are two coming up in the French Alps. Froome is a strong climber and has the chance to build a comfortable lead with a win tomorrow. Although he wears the yellow jersey, he has yet to win a stage.
His three closest rivals – Fabio Aru, Frenchman Romain Bardet and Colombian Rigoberto Urán – are also very good in the mountains, so Froome will not have it all his own way.
The Englishman is very likely to attack on the steep climbs tomorrow from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier. He would love to go into Saturday’s time-trial in Marseille with a comfortable lead to take the pressure off as he chases his fourth Tour win.
However, as things stand, any one of the four top contenders could win the Tour.