State of play: what’s up for grabs in the final week of the 2017 Tour de France? - Road Cycling UK

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State of play: what’s up for grabs in the final week of the 2017 Tour de France?

Where will the yellow, green, white and polka-dot jerseys be won or lost?

The 2017 Tour de France reached the second and final rest day of this year’s race with the battle for the yellow jersey poised on a knife-edge.

Just 29 seconds separate the top four riders overall, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) back in yellow after gaining time in Rodez on Saturday.

In fact, there are only 67 seconds between the top six overall, compared to the second rest day of last year’s race when only one other rider, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), was within two minutes of Froome.

Simon Yates and Chris Froome currently hold the white and yellow jerseys respectively (pic – Pauline Ballet/ASO)

And the battles for the other three jerseys are far from over yet either, even though they are not quite as close as the current situation overall.

Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) is in the white jersey of best young rider, five-time stage winner Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors) is in green and Bastille Day stage winner Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) wears the polka dot jersey.

So what’s up for grabs in the final week of the 2017 Tour de France? Let’s take a closer look…

The route

Six stages remain, with the race still to head through the Alps before a time trial in Marseille on the penultimate day and the traditional finale on the Champs-Elysees.

The climbing starts immediately after the rest day, with stage 16 heading up from Le Puy-en-Velay to the Cote de Boussoulet. It’s only a third-category climb, but depending how the stage is raced it could determine whether the stage is won by a sprinter of from the breakaway.

That’s nothing compared to what is to follow as the peloton starts climbing the Alps on stages 17 and 18 – the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, Col de Vars and Col d’Izoard all feature over the two days.

Stage 19, meanwhile, is long. Very long. Three category three climbs are packed in to the 222.5km route, but with 45km of largely flat terrain between the last peak and the Salon-de-Provence finish line, it’s another day for the sprinters and rouleurs.

The Col d’Izoard is just one of the Alpine giants still to come (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

The penultimate stage will decide the yellow jersey, meanwhile, with a 22.5km time trial to and from the Orange Velodrome in Marseille, with a short, steep climb to Notre-Dame de La Garde to contend with too.

And finally the race concludes, as ever, with the final stage into Paris and onto the Champs-Elysees – nine laps of the finishing circuit which will see the sprinters try to stop Marcel Kittel, before the jersey presentation.

Yellow jersey – general classification

Chris Froome is back in yellow, but Team Sky’s three-time winner and defending champion has not had it easy – far from it, in fact.

Having already lost the maillot jaune on the steep Peyragudes climb on stage 12, Froome’s rivals will no doubt be preparing to ruthlessly attack the race leader in the Alps.

Chris Froome leads overall, but there are just 29 seconds between the top four (pic: Sirotti)

Italian champion Fabio Aru – the only non-Brit to wear yellow in this year’s race – is second at 18 seconds, but with key domestiques Dario Cataldo and Jakob Fuglsang crashing out, he has regularly found himself isolated on the key climbs.

It is why he is not in yellow anymore, and where third-placed Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) holds the advantage.

Bardet’s Ag2r-La Mondiale team-mates did an excellent job of putting pressure on Froome, and driving a great pace over the climbs, in the Central Massif, and you can expect to see plenty of them again in the Alps.

Fabio Aru held the race lead for two team-mates, but with two key team-mates out has lacked support at key moments (pic: Sirotti)

Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran, meanwhile, has been the surprise turn of the Tour so far, rediscovering the form that earned him podium places at the 2013 and 2014 Giros.

His stage win, despite being unable to change gear, in Chambery marked him as a contender, and he has followed that by being ever-present in the GC group, driving the pace at time and playing very much an active role in proceedings.

Uran also has the better time trial of the three nearest challengers to Froome overall at the moment – the former Colombian time trial champion wore pink for several days at the 2014 Giro d’Italia on the back of his stage win against the clock.

Romain Bardet won on Peyragudes (pic – Sirotti)

Dan Martin, meanwhile, is 1’12” behind overall, having lost 1’15” in the crash with Richie Porte (BMC Racing) that marred stage nine of this year’s race.

Despite lacking a strong climbing team around him – QuickStep Floors have been set up for Marcel Kittel’s sprint ambitions – he too has rode an active race, and has been eking back seconds bit by bit over his rivals.

So, can any of them stop Froome from making it four wins in five years at the Tour in the final week? The Team Sky man has shown signs of vulnerability but the key will be how he and his rivals go in the Alps.

If Froome is still within touching distance of the race lead before the Marseille time trial, the Team Sky man will remain favourite to take the yellow jersey.

The GC group rides towards the Peyragudes finale on stage 12 (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com)

He will also benefit from Team Sky’s current two-pronged attack, with Mikel Landa in some of his best ever form in sixth place, at 1’17” behind his team-mate.

He has already shown a willingness to attack, and Sky a willingness to adapt their tactics – Froome is their number one, but Landa doubtless has something up his sleeve too.

Tour de France 2017: general classification after stage 15

1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 64.40.21hrs
2) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +18”
3) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +23”
4) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Cannondale-Drapac +29”
5) Daniel Martin (IRL) – QuickStep Floors +1.12
6) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Team Sky +1.17
7) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-Scott +2.02
8) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – UAE Team Emirates +5.09
9) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Trek-Segafredo +5.37
10) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – BMC Racing +6.05

RCUK prediction: 1) Froome, 2) Bardet, 3) Uran

White jersey – youth classification

Sat seventh overall, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) took over the white jersey on stage five and the Bury-born rider, twin brother of last year’s best young rider Adam Yates, has been extending his lead pretty much ever since.

His advantage in the youth classification over Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) is now 3’07”, with no other rider within ten minutes of the 24-year-old Brit.

Simon Yates has been on the attack to open up a three-minute lead in the youth classification (pic – Sirotti)

Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and stage winner Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) have all shown plenty of potential themselves, but the battle for the white jersey is very much a two-horse race.

And Yates boasts a comfortable lead, featuring regularly in the GC group and putting in plenty of attacks of his own.

Encouragingly, experienced domestique Roman Kreuziger was also up near the front on stage 15 too – Yates should defend his lead now, but the assistance of his team-mate could see him target a top-five place overall too.

Tour de France 2017: youth classification after stage 15

1) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-Scott – 64.42.23hrs
2) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – UAE Team Emirates +3.07
3) Pierre Latour (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +11.39
4) Emanuel Buchmann (GER) – Bora-hansgrohe +17.35
5) Guillaume Martin (FRA) – Wanty-Groupe Gobert +25.26

RCUK prediction: 1) Yates, 2) Meintjes, 3) Buchmann

Green jersey – points classification

Since Peter Sagan’s disqualification on stage four meant the Slovakian world champion would not be winning the green jersey for a record-equalling sixth consecutive time, it was hoped the competition might be a little more open than usual.

Then Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors) came along, cleaned up the sprint stages to take his tally of stage wins to five so far in this year’s race, and it looked like we were in for another one-horse race – albeit in different circumstances to normal.

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) has made things interesting, however, riding a Sagan-esque race to take victory on stage 14 and mop up points from the breakaway on the harder stages’ intermediate sprints.

Marcel Kittel has been in unstoppable form on the sprint stages (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com)

It means there are now just 79 points between Matthews and Kittel, with a maximum of 290 still up for grabs.

Kittel is going to take some beating on the Champs-Elysees given his sprinting form, so you can expect him to claim 50 there, and he remains very much favourite as a result.

The key, therefore, will be if Matthews can get in the breakaways between now and Paris, and who will claim intermediate sprint points.

Michael Matthews has kept things interesting, however – Kittel remains favourite, but the Australian has closed the gap (pic – Sirotti)

Stage 16 is a hilly one, and if Kittel’s off the pace on the early climb there is a chance to reclaim plenty of points – 20 at the intermediate sprint at 121.5km and 30 at the finish – while stage 17’s intermediate sprint comes after the category-two Col d’Ornon.

There’s potential for Matthews to close the gap right down, and if he does so – remembering Kittel’s mechanical misfortune on the Champs-Elysees last year – anything can happen on that final day.

Tour de France 2017: points classification after stage 15

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – QuickStep Floors – 373 points
2) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Team Sunweb – 294
3) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal – 187
4) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha-Alpecin – 158
5) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida – 128

RCUK prediction: 1) Kittel, 2) Matthews, 3) Greipel

Polka-dot jersey – King of the Mountains

On the face of it, the battle to be crowned King of the Mountains already looks to be over – Warren Barguil has 116 points, while no other rider has more than 38.

Barguil, in the polka dot jersey, has already won on Bastille Day and clocked up plenty of miles in the breakaway as he has looked to build up an unassailable lead in the classification.

But with the Alps still to come, there are a maximum 116 points still up for grabs – technically, every rider in the Tour could still win.

More realistically, however, third-placed Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) has tried to get in the key breakaways so far and a day up the road on stage 17 carries a maximum reward of 55 points.

Warren Barguil celebrates stage success in the polka dot jersey on Bastille Day (pic – Sirotti)

Stage 18, with the hors categorie finish on the Col d’Izoard offering 40 points, could also see Barguil’s lead cut.

That said, with Barguil in superb form, you would not bet against him scooping those points himself.

His nearest challengers could actually end up being the GC men, with Mikel Landa – who was King of the Mountains at the Giro d’Italia – on 33 points, and set to be at the sharp end on the Col du Galibier and Col d’Izoard as he protects Froome’s and his own GC hopes.

With no mountain stage on the final Saturday of this year’s race this time out, there’s no need for Barguil to pace his effort through the Alps next week – the Frenchman simply has to secure the jersey on those two mountainous stages and then finish what has been a superb race for him.

Tour de France 2017: mountains classification after stage 15

1) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Team Sunweb – 116 points
2) Primoz Roglic (SVN) – LottoNL-Jumbo – 38
3) Thomas de Gendt (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal – 36
4) Mikel Landa (ESP) – Team Sky – 33
5) Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – 28

RCUK predicition: 1) Barguil, 2) Landa, 3) De Gendt

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