Start location: Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc
Finish location: Courchevel
Start time: 12:20 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:03 CEST
The quintessential Alpine climb is one that’s unforgivingly long and ascends at a relentless but steady gradient, and from where you can admire the stunning scenery of rocky landscape and snow-capped peaks. By contrast, it’s said that the summits of the Pyrenees are relatively shorter, with more uneven gradients, less well-paved roads, and surrounded by more greenery and forests.
These are generalisations that can become meaningless when you start to compare individual climbs in each mountain range with the other, and today’s Alpine epic only partially fits the stereotype. On one hand, it features the two longest climbs of the whole Tour, the 19.9km Cormet de Roselend, and the 28.1km Col de la Loze, but, after a steady first 14km in which the road rarely ramps up to more than 8%, the Col de la Loze turns into something much more atypical upon reaching a plateau halfway up at the Méribel ski resort.
Not only does the road narrow drastically, the gradient here fluctuates constantly and horribly with hairpins aplenty and multiple ramps of over 15%, making it impossible to get the kind of rhythm you’d hope to during such a long effort. And the worst is saved until last, with a final 4km that averages over 10%, including one section at 24%. As the highest point of the Tour, the thin air will make these slopes even more agonising.
This will be the second time the Tour has visited the climb following its debut in 2020, when Primož Roglič came out narrowly on top in another battle against Tadej Pogačar, while Miguel Ángel López won the stage and jumped up on GC into a podium position, only to lose it a few days later in the time trial. With no more stages to come against the clock this week, this is a real chance for mountain goats like López to make significant time.
Stage 17 profile sourced via ASO
Even before the Col de la Loze, there’s enough climbing today (over 5,000m, in fact) to make a strong case for this to be the queen stage of the Tour. The category one Col des Saisies greets the riders just 17km into the stage, and its descent is immediately followed by the cruelly long Cormet de Roselend. Things do calm down after that with a long descent prior to the relatively modest category two Côte de Longefoy, but the descent of that climb looks tricky, with technical corners and tight hairpins aplenty. From there they’ll start the mammoth effort up Col de la Loze which, though not quite a mountain top finish, may as well be — a fast 6.5km descent followed by viscous final kilometre rise to the finish in Courchevel in double digit gradients offers little scope for anyone dropped to make back any time. With just one mountain stage to come after, this climb could be the setting where the fate of the yellow jersey is fully determined.
On the rest day the outlook on stage 17 may have been that it would see another tight battle for seconds between the race's top two, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). After the decimation in the time trial, which saw Vingegaard put Pogačar from 10 seconds to an astonishing 1:48 back on GC, UAE will now need to plot an overthrow of the race leader on this stage if they have any hope of winning the Tour de France.
That may put paid to any chance of the breakaway staying away, which looked unlikely anyway considering the significant difficulty of the final climb. Therefore, it's extremely hard to look past Vingegaard or Pogačar winning here.
The more than 5,000m of climbing does open up opportunities for the other pure climbers in the GC, particularly considering the top two are so far out of sight that they won't consider anyone else a threat to their position.
Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) has remained in contention for podium spot, and his metronomic style of climbing could help him perfectly pace his effort to the top of the Col de la Loze. If he's to win though, he'll need Vingegaard and Pogačar to be concentrating on each other as they were on Joux Plane last weekend.
Eighth overall Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula) has the capabilities to win on a climb of this severity, having thrived on the likes of the Monte Zoncolan in the past at the Giro d'Italia.
We can't see past either Vingegaard or Pogačar winning this stage given its enormous difficulty. Like last year when he won on Peyragudes after losing a heap of time to his rival, we think Pogačar will win the stage with Vingegaard close behind.