So, who will win the Tour de France? If Chris Froome should make it to the finish line alongside rivals Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran then he’s won the Tour de France, right? Well, most other years we’d probably say ‘yes’, but now we find ourselves saying ‘ummmmm’.
Of the mountain stages navigated in the 2017 Tour de France on paper stage 18 looks like one of the tamer tasks. Two tough mountain climbs await, with the Col de Vars and the Col d’Izoard. The number of different mountain duels that could unfold on the mountain climbs certainly wet the appetite. Chris Froome in yellow is not safe from Romain Bardet or Rigoberto Uran in second and third at 27 seconds. Uran and Bardet can’t count their chickens ahead of Fabio Aru in fourth place. Aru can’t celebrate just yet with Mikel Landa breathing down his neck.
From here Landa looks to be somewhat comfortable ahead of Daniel Martin and the same can be said of Daniel Martin to Simon Yates. But then Simon Yates, what was that drop back in stage 17? Is this the point where the Brit, who has been oh so consistent as the best young rider in this year’s Tour, begins to fall back? I would say not but stranger things have happened; and I would expect Louis Meintjes to be determined to take just about any and every opportunity he can get in the run in to the final time trial.
Which leads us to our ‘ummmmm’ surrounding Froome at the finish line for stage 18. Let’s hypothesise for a moment that Froome is going to arrive at the top of the Col d’Izoard with no time lost in the general classification. The time trial should be where he thrives. But this Tour de France has been full of riders stumbling where they weren’t expected to. Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Demare, Marcel Kittel, Richie Porte, George Bennett, ring any bells? With the exception of Arnaud Demare and Peter Sagan, each of these riders – major players in their respective fields – have been forced out of the race due to crashes or illness. Even those still left in the broader GC hunt have had their fair share of tribulations; Daniel Martin and Alberto Contador in particular.
Froome has had his shaky moments so far, mechanicals that have threatened his overall lead and a near crash that could have so easily shed him of support riders. But to his credit he’s been able to stay more or less in control all the way through; and still holds favourite status if you ask me. How much he will subscribe to the unwritten rule that a Tour de France winner must win at least one stage is a subject I don’t think he’ll be entertaining too much. He’s been too smart to worry about the pride attached with a stage win so far.
RoadCycling’s top 5 prediction for stage 18 is:
1st: Romain Bardet
2nd: Chris Froome
3rd: Rigoberto Uran
4th: Fabio Aru
5th: Mikel Landa