Primoz Roglic won stage 17 of the Tour de France to Serre-Chevalier as Chris Froome finished third and retained the yellow jersey
The finish at the summit of the Col dIzoard will provide another reshuffle, probably a more meaningful one, but over another great ascending, the Galibier, the first Alpine stage more than a few clues of what may be seen amidst the Death Valley decor of the Casse Deserte. The Slovenian day triallist Primoz Roglic was a worthy winner at the expense of Alberto Contador, but they were essentially the warm-up act.
With the help of his team-mate Mikel Landa, Chris Froome brushed aside attacks from Romain Bardet and Daniel Martin to retain the yellow jersey, gaining ground on all his contenders apart from Rigoberto Urn, while Fabio Aru appears to be running out of steam and Simon Yatess grip on the white jersey is far from secure.
With its bleak screes and vermicelli hairpins, the Galibier is perhaps the most daunting Alpine climb tackled regularly by the Tour, absence only a few sunbleached bones to make it the perfect picture of desolation. But the time gaps that may prove critical by the weekend were opened on the descent, on the more straightforward high-speed road down from the Col du Lautaret into the finish.
The final five kilometres to the summit high above the village of Valloire were punctuated by attacks from Martin and Bardet, who repeatedly attempted to set Froome under pressure. Landa seems as if he has yet to stretch his legs in this race, but each time Bardet sprinted away, it was Froome who responded, with Urn marking the pair, then, almost invariably, Landa catching up as well.
The repeated accelerations watched off first Yates, and then Aru, who both did the elastic as the jargon has it, dropping off then clawing his way back just in time for the next increased number of pace to begin the whole painful process again. By the summit, Aru was 13 sec behind Froome, Landa, Bardet and Urn, with Yates further back. The gaps widened on the 28 km descent, and by the finish Aru had lost 31 sec, pushing him down the stands to fourth.
Roglic, however, had already taken flight for a victory which Contador had done his utmost to claim. The Spaniard has not won a Tour stage since 2009, but played a tactical blinder here, placing two team-mates, Bauke Mollema and Jarlinson Pantano, in the early escape of 33 riders, bridging to the move on the Col de la Croix de Fer, then utilizing his colleagues to forge what should have been a stage-winning gap by the foot of the Galibier.
Contador was unlucky to fall upon Roglic, a former junior ski jump champ who has been climbing well in this Tour, but is better known for winning a time-trial stage in the Giro dItalia in 2016. When Roglic constructed his final move 6km from the top of the Galibier after a certain sum of sparring with Contador and the Tour de Yorkshire winner Serge Pauwels the Spaniard had no answer.