Geschke Takes Stage 17 of Tour de France
Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) has won the biggest victory of his career. The German domestique surged away from the break of the day to win Stage 17, a rugged, 161-km ride from Digne-les-Bains to Pra-Loup, in 4:12:17. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin protected by POC) finished second at 0:32, and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) finished third at 1:01. Chris Froome (Team Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
Early in the stage, a number of abortive sallies took place. At 38 km, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), who began the day in third place overall, was dropped on the Category 3 Col des Leques. The BMC man, who had battled a respiratory infection for several days, joined a group led by Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) and got back on at 82 km, but he was dropped for good on the Category 2 Col de la Colle Saint-Michel and abandoned at 91 km.
At 57 km, 28 riders got clear. They were Tanel Kangert (Astana); Jan Bakelants and Mikael Cherel (both from Ag2r-La Mondiale); Thibaut Pinot and Benoît Vaugrenard (both from FDJ); Richie Porte and Nicolas Roche (both from Sky); Rafal Majka and Peter Sagan (both from Tinkoff-Saxo Bank); Jonathan Castroviejo, Jose Herrada, and Gorka Izagirre (all from Movistar); John Degenkolb and Geschke (both from Giant-Alpecin); Alberto Losada (Katusha); Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge); Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step); Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar); Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo); Kristjian Durasek and Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida); Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin); Nicolas Edet (Cofidis); Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling); Merhawi Kudus, Serge Pauwels, and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka). The group led by 4:20 at 88 km.
On the Col de la Colle Saint Michel, Alberto Contador and Michael Rogers (both from Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) attacked. Contador left his teammate behind, but eventually Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) led the yellow jersey group to the two-time Tour winner. At 111 km, after the intermediate sprint at Beauvezer, Geschke attacked the break. Four km from the summit of the Category 1 Col d’Allos, the German led his former companions by 2:00. Pinot set out after the Giant-Alpecin man. The Frenchman had cut Geschke’s lead to one minute at the summit, but he crashed on the descent. Talansky and Uran passed the FDJ man and pursued the German.
Astana led the yellow jersey group on behalf of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian attacked on the descent, and Froome, Valverde, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Contador followed. Quintana attacked, and the others followed, although Contador crashed. The Spaniard took a bicycle from teammate Peter Sagan but would lose 2:17 to Froome, which further compromised his hopes of winning this Tour.
Ahead, Talansky chased doggedly. The Cannondale-Garmin man trailed Geschke by 0:59 with three km remaining, and he continued to close on the stage leader. The American ran out of road, however. He settled for second and vowed to continue trying to win a stage for his team in the days that remain.
In the yellow jersey group, Quintana attacked. The Colombian dropped Valverde and Nibali, but Froome caught the Movistar man. The two crossed the finish line together, with Valverde and Nibali arriving 0:07 later.
Geschke’s victory overwhelmed him. He was in tears when he spoke to reporters after the stage. “After the sprint I attacked and started the final climb with an advantage,” the German said. “I had 1:30 for a long time, and I thought I’d just see what would happen. I knew it was a difficult descent and I went pretty fast. On the last climb I gave it my all and was able to hold on to my advantage. I suffered incredibly but I cannot put this feeling into words.
“This was a dream for me since I was 15 years old. After so many attempts it finally happened. I cannot believe it.”
Stage 17 was difficult for Froome, who found himself under attack. “There was a lot going on today with Tejay pulling out, Alberto crashing on the final descent, and all the tactics during the early part of the stage” the yellow jersey said. “The GC contenders were moving around right from the first 50-60km, which made for a full-on day.
“Nairo was definitely pushing me, testing me, and I especially felt that in that last km. He was pushing on to see if I could respond, but I’m feeling good at this stage so I was able to do that. I just hope I can stay on my bike over these next three days and get through as best I can.“
In the overall, Froome leads Quintana by 3:10 and Valverde by 4:09. Stage 18 will probably not change this state of affairs. The 186.5-km ride from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne will take the riders over seven categorized climbs, but the toughest of these, the Col du Glandon, will summit 39 km from the finish. The day’s last climb, the Category 2 Lacets de Montvernier, will summit at 176.5 km. It adds up to a breakaway winning the stage. Who will win? Uran? Dan Martin or Ryder Hesjedal (both from Cannondale-Garmin)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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