Over 4,000 metres of climbing for the exhausted peloton today, including the Roselend, Saisies, Aravis and Plateau des Glières - a beast of a stage.
The cream certainly rose to the top in Méribel on stage 17, with Andy's shrewd pick of Miguel Angel López beating the GC favourites Pogacar and Roglic. That's four stage winners in the bag for our editor. Respect.
Cycling Mole runs his critical eye over our selections. Listen up.
Méribel - La Roche-sur-Foron (175km)
Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates)
With some absolute killer climbs on today's course and with bonus seconds slipping away rapidly, Pogacar is swiftly running out of road if he's going to unseat his countryman. I think a last-ditch effort today could be on the cards. It won't be easy to break that elastic, but it isn't impossible.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) Shark's tooth profile? Going up from the gun? This IS the Thomas De Gendt stage. No matter how hard he tried he wasn't able to get away on stage 17, but that will only be to his benefit in the last chance breakaway saloon.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) The man from Bury was up there in Stage 17 and this day feels better suited to him – he's surely going to go for one last attempt at a stage win seeing as there'll be nothing for him in the last few stages. But the same could be said for a number of other very talented riders in this race so it should be another entertaining finale regardless.
Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers)
I’m banking on the top-two neutralising each other and waiting for the big mountain TT showdown on Saturday, so a breakaway guy to win, but which one? Capapaz gave it a good crack on stage 17 but didn’t quite cut it. He might be tired after all that exertion but, hey, he’s a pro bike rider. Crack on and do it all again, only better.
Cycling Mole says...
Well, well, well, Andy bagged himself a wee stage win. Now, this was helped by a perfect example of tactical suicide by Bahrain. Every year we always get a team making of fool of themselves, this year it was Bahrain. It’s never a great idea to set a pace so high your team leader blows.
Stage 18 and the last road stage where the GC riders can do something. It’s packed full of climbs, but the big HC hill crests a fair way from home, which usually deters big attacks. I expect full gas racing from km 0 as we have a tough-looking cat 1 climb early doors. Jumbo-Visma will set a fierce pace up this climb to deter attacks and we’ll have to see how the race develops after that.
Andy, Nick and Ian are going for the breakaway, which isn’t a bad idea. The problem could be the crazy start, but a later move could well steal the win, similar to the day Hirschi won. Carapaz has enjoyed two consecutive breakaway days, you’d think he’d be knackered by now, but never underestimate an elite athlete’s powers of recovery. His Ineos team-mate, Pavel Sivakov, is a good selection by Andy. He’ll love the look of this stage, it’s similar to the one in the Dauphiné that he nearly won. Nick wants a De Gendt masterclass, but his legs look empty and I can’t see him winning. Ben and Miles are going with a GC day, with picks of Yates and Pogačar. Both picks are slightly surprising, but they should be in with a shout, but I don’t think Pogačar will get much freedom in this stage.
Well, I feel like I’ve had a couple of days off, time to get back on the horse. This pick is going to surprise you – no, amaze you. I think the top riders will all be able to match each other, especially with the HC climb being so far from home. This will allow a rider a little further down on GC to sneak away and take a sensational win. That person, ladies and gentlemen, will be Alejandro “Bala” Valverde. Vamos!