“Give him one or two more years”.
Bardet, who has repeatedly rolled the dice in recent days in a bid to break Froome, collapsed in exhaustion at the finish as a swarm of reporters surrounded him.
The champion of Italy’s Fabio Aru, got it the day before at the top of the Galibier, has once again stuck. But a last burst of speed from Bardet toward the top of the mountain pass, which rises 2,642 meters (8,668 feet) in altitude, proved decisive. Thus, the seconds Aru lost yesterday were very important. At their quickest, the riders descended at 75 kph (45 mph). “Now we have the time trial but the Tour is already a success”.
“I think if we all went into the time trial with the time gaps we have now, Rigoberto would be the most unsafe”, Froome said of the Cannondale-Drapac rider, a former Sky team-mate.
Uran leapfrogged from fourth to second overall.
Bardet moved up to second at 23sec with Uran dropping to third at 29sec in what has now become a three-way battle for the Tour title.
Matthews’ Sunweb team realised Kittel was in trouble and they put the hammer down. “It’s still all to race for”.
Tomorrow’s stage 18 will challenge the Tour peloton to a fierce duel on the 179.5 kilometer route from Briançon to Izoard in the Hautes-Alpes region of France.
“It’s unbelievable”, Roglic said.
The Briton crossed the line fourth on the summit finish to the Col d’Izoard, just behind home favourite Romain Bardet, who moved up to second overall.
Uran and Froome snatched small time bonuses but Bardet missed out, meaning the Colombian from the Cannondale-Drapac team leads the Frenchman by a few hundredths of a second.
“Definitely Rigo is still probably at this moment my biggest threat for the time-trial in Marseille from the GC group”, said Froome. “Thankfully, I felt better in these last two Alpine stages than in the Pyrenees”.
Marcel Kittel, who donned the green jersey thus far crashed out early in the stage and abandoned the race. Riders attacked off the front throughout the relatively even-terrained run up to Col de Vars, but never managed to get away.
As for the overall race, it would be wrong to say that this stage is the last chance for anyone to have any impact – crosswinds are a possibility on upcoming stages and there’s the time trial in Marseille on the penultimate day – but it’s true that this looks crucial. But that discipline isn’t Aru’s forte – unlike Froome. Of course it would have been nice to take a bit of time, but all in all I’m pretty happy with that.
The German would still have been expected to win the jersey with two likely flat stage sprints to come but Matthews could have taken it off him on Thursday’s stage with 20 points up for grab in the intermediate sprint there.