22/07/15 - 11:55
Digne-les-Bains - Pra-Loup
Tour de France • Stage17

Digne-les-Bains - Pra-Loup

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Yellow and white cross the line alongside Rafa Valls of Lampre. Further back, Valverde drops Nibali in the closing moments. Thomas will be the next to cross the line, another 40-odd seconds back.


Quintana attacks! Froome is the only one who can follow... they have 300m to go.


Contador did crash because you can see a cut on his right forearm and a tear in his shorts.


The rest of the break are arriving in dribs and drabs... Teklehaimanot, Majka...


Contador - riding Sagan's bike - has been unable to rejoin the main favourites on this climb. Quintana put in an attack, but it came to nothing. Nibali has picked up team-mate Westra. It's going to be a stalemate between these guys - although Contador is down and Van Garderen is out.


Matthias Frank (IAM) is fifth just behind Pinot. Adam Yates seems to have disappeared, so it may be Steven Kruijswijk who takes sixth.


Fourth for Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at 1:35. If only he hadn't crashed on the descent it may have been very different...


Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep) crosses the line for third at 1:01.


Second place for Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) - 31 seconds down.


Victory for Simon Geschke of Giant-Shimano, who roars and punches the air over the finish line, before coming to a prompt stand-still.


He's been out since 53km to go - what a ride from Simon Geschke today.


Under the flamme rouge goes Geschke - and only a fall will stop him now. No Kittel? No problem, for Giant-Shimano. He was fourth in Gap, now Geschke will get his win.


Valverde and Quintana have Herrada with them now, from the original break, plus Malori. Further back, Contador is riding on his own in pursuit after that mechanical.


Cannondale-Garmin will get their third second-place of the Tour. Talansky still 45 seconds down on the leader.


Talansky is riding with no water bottles, Geschke has one, Pinot two.


The big GC favourites have completed the downhill and have started the final 6km climb to the finish.


Talansky now 55 seconds behind Geschke. The bearded German is gritting his teeth - he will hold on.


Pinot and Frank have dropped Yates. Uran has Talansky in his sights. Back on the descent and it's Valverde who leads, with Froome and Nibali behind, then Quintana.


Can Geschke hold on? He has Talansky and Uran in pursuit, plus Pinot, Yates and Frank a bit firther back. The gaps are down to just over a minute.


Under the 5km-to-go banner for Geschke, who has 2:00 over Talansky. Uran is just behind, while Pinot was also caught by Yates and Frank on that descent - he's about to catch them now on the climb.


Geschke is onto the final climb to the finish - the Cat.2 climb to Pra Loup (6.2km at 6.5%).


Geschke has completed the climb and almost comes a cropper when riding alongside his team car - that was a close one.


Nibali, Valverde, Froome and Quintana are still all together on this descent.


Contador will lose time today - that bike change took a long time...


CONTADOR DOWN! Either that, or he needs a bike change - because he's on the side of the road with Sagan and Rogers, who were up ahead in the break.


Geschke has 1:37 over Talansky, with Uran and then Pinot in pursuit. The yellow jersey group is still nine minutes in arrears so they shouldn't figure for the stage win.


Pinot's confidence has gone - Talansky has passed by. Geschke is still our lone leader - he's ridden this downhill well. Uran is about to catch Pinot.


The yellow jersey go over the top and start this dangerous descent... Meanwhile, Pinot - who crashed earlier - has been caught by Talansky.


The main GC favourites catch Richie Porte, who takes up position on the front for Chris Froome. Advantage Sky...


Now Quintana goes! The Colombian attacks from the back - and it's covered by the others.


ATTACK! Nibali steps on the pedals - taking Froome, Quintana, Valverde and Contador with him. The Big Four plus the Spanish national champion - here they are!


CRASH: Thibaut Pinot loses his back wheel on a tight left-hander and he's down. He's back up quickly but that looked quite nasty.


Pierre Rolland has been dropped by the yellow jersey group, and Warren Barguil is on the ropes too now... Astana still driving the pace through Scarponi and Nibali. Wout Poels has been dropped. Froome, Thomas, Quintana, Contador, Valverde and Gesink are all there.


Over the top goes Geschke and the bearded German will now start this testing descent, which is 16km in total, very narrow, with some tight bends and patchwork of road surfaces.


Lone leader Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) has 1:10 over Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) as the near the summit. Meanwhile, Rigoberto Uran has joined the chasing group.


Did you know: Romain Bardet descended like a demon off the back of the Col d'Allos before climbing to victory at Pra Loup in what was a carbon copy of this stage in June's Criterium du Dauphine. Can the French tyro do it again on the centre stage? The answer is... No. Bardet has been dropped by the yellow jerse group.


Astana are pushing hard on the climb back with the peloton, which is riding 10:50 in arrears. Sanchez and Scarponi drive a fast pace for defending champion Nibali.


Pinot attacks! He's climbing like a man possessed and drops the other chasing riders on a tight hairpin.


Pinot has caught the likes of Kruijswijk, Frank and Yates. Only Frank can hold his wheel as the others, plus Talansky, struggle to stay in touch. The American bridges over, but Kruijswijk has popped and Yates somewhere in between.


Thibaut Pinot has ridden past Talansky as he tries to chase down Frank. Kudus was there but has tired.


Meanwhile, back with the pack it's the Trek Factory Racing team of Bauke Mollema who set the pace - but they're well over 11 minutes behind the lone leader, Geschke. Trek don't have any riders in the break so they're looking to rectify that.


Yet another attack from Frank, who prompts a reply from Talansky. Roche leads the response ahead of MTN duo Teklehaimanot and Pauwels.


Now it's Roche who steps on the pedals, reeled in by Pauwels and Herrada. Geschke is climbin well and has 1:50 over Kruijswijk and Yates, who are 30 seconds ahead of the Roche group. The peloton is at 11:30.


Peter Sagan is no longer in this main break group as Matthias Frank ups the tempo for IAM. He's got Rafal Majka on his wheel - the Polish winner of stage 11 in Cauterets.


Richie Porte has been dropped by the break. The Tasmanian is said to be ill today, so he's done well to stay in touch for so long.


Teklehaimanot has been caught by the other escapees and Kruijswijk has ridden clear in pursuit of Geschke.


Michal Kwiatkowski, the world champion from Etixx-QuickStep, has withdrawn from the Tour. He's been struggling for quite some time now.


Rafa Valls of Lampre-Medira steps on the pedals and edges clear of the break. He's provoked a response from 5 riders, with another 6 in pursuit.


The break has managed to regroup so we have 24 riders - including Sagan - who ride in pursuit of Geschke and Teklehaimanot. The peloton is now 10 minutes off the pace so the winner today will come from the break, that's almost guaranteed.


Geschke has Teklehaimanot in pursuit. The Eritrean knows this stage well - he tackled it in the Dauphine, in which he won the polka dot jersey.


The break is shedding some of its extra timber now, as Degenkolb becomes the latest rider to drop back. His team-mate Geschke continues his lone ride at the front of the race. He has 1:45 over the others and another seven minutes over the pack.


Sky duo Richie Porte and Nicolas Roche have reportedly sat up from the break - although I can certainly see the Irishman still there.


Quintana has two Movistar team-mates, plus Alejandro Valverde, now. The pace has slowed considerably meaning lone leader Geschke has been able to pull out a lead of 7:15. He has 1:05 over the green jersey chasing group.


We're onto the Cat.1 Col d'Allos (14km at 5.5%). Geschke has two riders in pursuit - Herrada and Durasek.


Froome now has five Sky team-mates on the front of the main pack with him, whereas Nairo Quintana looks pretty isolated because lots of his Movistar men are further up the road. They trail the front of the race by 4:55 - and the front of the race is bearded rouleur Simon Geschke, who has ridden clear for Giant-Alpecin.


Believe it or not: With the Galibier cancelled because of a landslide, the 2,250 metre-high Col d'Allos will be the highest point of the 2015 race. The first time the Tour used the Col d'Allos was in 1947 when Rene Vietto crossed the summit in pole position just months after losing a toe to sepsis. Rumour has it Vietto made his domestique Apo Lazarides cut off one of his own toes in an enforced show of solidarity. According to legend, Vietto's toe is on display in a jar of formaldehyde in a bar in Marseille.


The break passes through the intermediate sprint at Beauvezer and there's some comedy capers going on as FDJ's Vaugrenard pips Degenkolb and Sagan for the points - much to the chagrin of the green jersey. "Not a good moment for Vaugrenard - that may come back to haunt him in another race." Either way, Sagan adds another 15 points to his unassailable tally...


According to the controversial retired rider Michael Rasmussen has a meteorological warning for the riders...


There's a fair bit of gesticulation and discussion going on in the break, with Ryder Hesjedal basically telling Richie Porte and the other riders from the GC teams to, well, bugger off.


Sam Bennett of Bora-Argon 18 has withdrawn from the Tour - the Irishman was lanterne rouge and has been struggling with illness. That means the new last man in the our is Sebastien Chavanel of FDJ.


The gap's up to 3:45 for the break as Sagan forms a small group alongside Degenkolb on the descent.


It's Pauwels who leads the trio across the summit again in first place. The Rogers quintet are about 2:20 back, just over a minute ahead of the main pack.


With the summit of the climb approaching three riders have jumped clear of the leading group - Durasek, Herrada and Pauwels. Further back, French duo Feillu and Sicard (not Rolland, as first reported) have Rogers and Malori in their sights, plus a Bora-Argon 18 rider too, Jan Barta.


Tony Gallopin, who dropped out of the top ten on Monday after struggling on the descent of the Col de Manse, has been dropped by the main pack. Technically, the Frenchman is back into 10th following the withdrawal of Tejay Van Garderen, but that may not be the case when he crosses the line. The man behind him in the standings is Romain Bardet, who won this exact stage during last month's Criterium du Dauphine...


Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Seche) pings off in pursuit of Rolland. All this action has seen the gap of the main break come down to 2:48. The Movistar rider with Rogers is Adriano Malori, not Anacona. Back with the pack, Froome now has Wout Poels as well as Konig and Thomas.


Mick Rogers has attacked again - and this time he's joined by a Movistar rider, it looks like Winner Anacona. Thomas De Gendt of Lotto-Soudal also pings off the front, as does Pierre Rolland with a Europcar team-mate.


Race over for ill Tejay Van Garderen. He pulls to the side of the road and is inconsolable - sweat and tears pouring down his face. And off comes his number - his Tour is over.


Now Valverde goes! The Spanish national champion kicks clear of the yellow jersey pack and sits on Contador's wheel. This move has caused a split in the pack, with Froome riding with only two team-mates now in Konig and Thomas. It's a group of about 12 riders - and Van Garderen is not one of them.


It's no can do for Contador and Rogers, who are struggling to make their move stick. Rogers calls it quits as Contador continues dancing in the pedals - but he's about to be caught by the pack. What his acceleration has done is whittle down the pack, from which numerous riders have been dropped having only really just got back on.


ATTACK: Alberto Contador and Mick Rogers ride clear of the Sky-led peloton. Very interesting... Tinkoff-Saxo have two more riders further up the road, and so far there's no reaction from Sky, but Movistar have edged forward. They will want to protect Valverde's fourth place.


The peloton is back together so Van Garderen has managed to claw himself back into it. They trail the leaders by 4:20.


Van Garderen is not the only ill rider out there - Richie Porte is supposed to be feeling off colour, and yet he's in the break for Sky...


The riders are onto the third climb of the day, the Cat.2 Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel (11km at 5.2%). The gap is 3:20 for the green jersey leading group over the chasing pack. The Van Garderen group is not that much further back and will soon join the fray - which is encouraging for the American, but it still doesn't bode well.


Talking of food... out plat du jour today is a succulent shoulder of Sisteron lamb with a potato gratin - knocked back with a glass of Génépi, the borderline-toxic herbal liqueur produced by monks in the nearby Chartreuse valley.


Degenkolb and Sagan are in animated discussion as the break passes through the feedzone. Meanwhile, Simon Geschke whips out his little gentleman to answer a call of nature.


Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) has also retired from the race - the second today after Jerome Coppel, and probably not the last, with Van Garderen in mind.


The gap is up to three minutes now for this break, which contains some stellar riders and could well be here to stay. They are: Tanel Kangert (Astana), Jan Bakelants and Mikaël Chérel (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot and Benoît Vaugrenard (FDJ), Richie Porte and Nicolas Roche (Sky), Rafal Majka and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jonathan Castroviejo, José Herrada and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), John Degenkolb and Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step), Perrig Quémeneur (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 (MTNèQhubeka).


Interesting to see two Sky riders in the break in Porte and Roche - a smart tactical move by Dave Brailsford's men. Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo have two riders in Sagan and Rafal Majka while Quintana's Movistar have Jonathan Castroviejo, José Herrada and Gorka Izagirre.


The yellow jersey group is 2:00 down on the break, while the Van Garderen group is 4:15 down.


Serge Pauwels takes 2pts over the summit of the climb ahead of MTN team-mate Teklehaimanot, who wore the polka dot jersey back in the first week. They also have a third team-mate in this break - Merhawi Kudus, the youngest rider in the race.


CRASH: Lieuwe Westra of Astana hits the deck - looks like he must have touched wheels with someone in the yellow jersey group, which trails the break by 1:45.


Some big names in the break: Cannondale-Gamin duo Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Jan Bakelants (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), Nico Roche (Team Sky), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Richie Porte (Sky), John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka).


We're onto the Cat.3 Col de Toutes Aures (6.1km at 3.1%). Sagan is in a group of 28 riders 1:30 ahead of the yellow jersey group.


Rumours filtering through that Tejay Van Garderen may not make it through today's stage... The American is currently 2:35 behind his GC rivals in a second peloton.


It's all change with around 20 riders - including Peter Sagan - now ahead of the pack by about 40 seconds. It's confusing but hopefully the race will settle soon as the riders edge onto the start of the next climb.


History: Beware, whoever wears yellow! It's 40 years since the great Eddy Merckx - punched by a spectator the previous day - rode clear on the Col d'Allos before imploding on the final climb to Pra Loup, losing the stage and his yellow jersey to Frenchman Bernard Thevanet, who would go on to win the 1975 Tour and end the Belgian's reign at the top.


Van Garderen is clearly having problems today - he's calling for the medical car. Sagan, Talansky and Kruijswijk have been caught by the main pack and around 30 riders are now clear - including the yellow and white jersey of Froome and Quintana.


Here's a profile of the descent... and Van Garderen is now 1:20 behind the main pack.


Guess what? Peter Sagan has joined Talansky and Kruijswick on the descent... The Slovakian clearly using his downhill skills to edge ahead of the main pack.


Frenchman Jérôme Coppel (IAM) has withdrawn from the race. The 28-year-old was in 94th position.


Two riders our ahead now on the descent of the Col des Lèques: Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo).


Van Garderen already one minute down on his GC rivals - and there are still four more climbs to go - and they only get harder...


Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) crests the summit to take two KOM points and Kristjian Durasek (Lampre-Merida) is second for one point. Remember, Poland's Majka won the polka dot jersey last year.


Tejay Van Garderen has been dropped by the main pack. This doesn't bode well for the American from BMC, who is defending his third place in the Alps.


That dig by Quintana and the response by Sky saw the main pack nullify the threat from the break, which has been reeled in. The upshot of this increase in tempo is that many riders are off the back - around 60-odd in fact.


ATTACK BY NAIRO QUINTANA! The Colombian climber, wearing the white jersey, has a dig on the first climb of the day - and Team Sky are forced to reel the Movistar rider in.


We're onto the Cat.3 Col des Lèques (6km at 5.3%). Pierre Rolland, Andrew Talansky, Rafal Majka, Michele Scarponi and Serge Pauwels are also in this leading group.


Around 35 riders have managed to open up a gap - including Peter Sagan, Joaquim Rodriguez, Thibaut Pinot, Albert Timmer and Dani Navarro.


Europcar now leading the pack. They have a few cards to play today in Thomas Voeckler, Cyril Gautier, Romain Sicard and, most importantly, Pierre Rolland. Jean-Rene Bernaudeau's team are also looking for a new sponsor so they will be looking to impress in the Alps with that two-week deadline looming like the sword of Damocles...


We have five climbs today for a total of 29 KOM points. The current leader of the king of the mountains competition is Chris Froome, who leads double stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez by 61 points to 52. But given Froome is in yellow, it's the Spaniard from Katusha who yet again wears the polka dot jersey today.


Talking of Astana, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali still thinks he can make the podium - despite trailing third place Van Garderen by over four minutes. "I'm very far away from the podium," Nibali told Gazzetta. "But it's not impossible. With a bit of luck, I can make it. Don't expect a solo attack in the middle of a mountain, something that guarantees they take you by the ears when they catch you later on. With fresher temperatures I'll go better and the rain isn't a problem for me. I've never felt super for all of this year. I was more self confident and determined one year ago. I'm not pissed off. I haven't been able to live normally after I won the Tour. But I'll play my cards in the Alps, and hopefully win a stage."


FDJ clearly want something from today's stage - they send Jeremy Roy up the road, but it comes to nothing thanks to the fierce pace-setting by Astana on the front of the pack.


Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was part of a large 30-man group to edge ahead of the pack on the run into the opening climb, but it came to nothing. Pinot was third in Paris last year, but has suffered this year and languishes in 19th place more than half an hour down on Chris Froome. He looked in line to win last Saturday's stage to Mende but was pipped by Britain's Steve Cummings at the finish.


Interesting quote from Alberto Contador, the Giro d'Italia champion, today on the official Tour website, letour.com: "I feel better than in 2013. I feel better and better each day. I came to the Tour to win it, not simply to make the top 5. My goal remains unchanged. The peloton is tired. There'll be opportunities. I intend to make the best of them."


The peloton is roaring along at a fast pace causing numerous riders to be dropped, including Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin) as well as Bennett, the lanterne rouge.


Swiss veteran Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) is the latest to have a pop, but last year's most combative rider is reeled in.


It was a short-lived attack from Sagan and his Dutch companion - the pair have been swallowed back up. And that's a big mouthful.


UNBELIEVABLE! Sagan is on the offensive again... the indefatigable Tinkoff-Saxo rider has pulled out ahead of the peloton with Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk of LottoNL-Jumbo.


Nine riders managed to open up a gap but it came to nothing. Meanwhile, Ireland's Sam Bennett, the lanterne rouge (last rider on GC), is already struggling. It's going to be a long day for the Bora-Argon 18 sprinter...


Attacks aplenty from the gun... but nothing has stuck for now. It will be interesting to see if Peter Sagan tries his luck again today after the Slovakian was in the break for the last three days ahead of the rest day. He's just the kind of rider who could excel on the tricky descent of the Col d'Allos... Sagan currently leads the green jersey competition by 405 points to Andre Greipel's 316.


They're under way! This stage - which was run during the Dauphine back in June and draws from a classic in 1975 (where Merckx was finally toppled by Thevanet) - should be a right corker. Bring it on...


And it's yet another sweltering day for the riders with the sun high in a bright blue sky and the temperature currently 33 degrees Celsius. A potential storm and some showers could well be on the cards, however...


The remaining 168 riders are currently rolling through the neutral zone ahead of today's official start. One non-starter today - Luxembourg's Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing).


A reminder that with five stages remaining the yellow jersey still adorns the shoulders of that man Froome from Team Sky, who leads Colombia's Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 3:10 and American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) by 3:32. Spaniards Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) lurk in fourth and fifth place at 4:02 and 4:23.


Catch up on some of the rest day gossip, plus look ahead at today's all-important stage in the latest episode of Bonjour Le Tour - including yours truly riding a bike and sifting through Chris Froome's power data...


Hello and welcome back to live coverage of the 102nd edition of the Tour de France - and after a much needed rest day on the apron of the Alps. Today is the first of four successive days in the high Alps, with five climbs on the menu for the 161km ride from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup.