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TOUR REPORT STAGE 17

Départ: Grenoble > Arrivée: Col de la Loze

The world’s biggest bike race first visited the French Alps in 1911. Following the success of the inclusion of the Pyrenees range in 1910, organiser Henri Desgrange decided to ramp up the difficulty and include France’s premiere mountain range. Long, unrelenting and rising to vertigo-inducing heights, the Alps is the range in which the Tour is won.

After countless visits to this region since 1911, it is not often that Le Grand Boucle comes across uncharted territory in the form of a new mountain road. On stage 17 it did; the Col de la Loze, kingmaker of this year’s tour.

A pass that rises to 2,304 metres, Col de la Loze was only recently made accessible and then christened by last year’s edition of the Tour de l’Avenir. L’Équipe called it ‘un sanctuaire en enfer’ (a sanctuary in hell) and with altitude, a monstrous length and ramps of up to 24%, the sanctuary could well become a 21st century Tour classic.

Nobody could have expected that the defending champion would leave the race on the day it finished at its highest altitude. This is a day for those born at great heights, but Egan Bernal was not there to fight it out – that’s 2020 for you.

Team Bahrain McLaren set a furious pace over the hors catégorie climb of he Col de la Madeleine and led the peloton onto the Col de la Loze. It was a heroic effort from the entire team, intended to shake their rivals loose. Alas, the pace set was too high for team leader Mikel Landa and the 30-year-old was dropped when the top climbers pushed on.

In bike racing, it’s often safer not to take the risk – and while it didn’t go to plan entirely, the fact that Bahrain McLaren were the team that brought the fight to Jumbo-Visma in the absence of Bernal and his Grenadiers, is a source of pride for the team and for Le Col.

The race splintered on the final steep ramps on the way up to the Loze and one of the Tour’s most nimble mountain goats, Miguel Ángel López, born at 2,858 metres above sea level, dropped the two chasing Slovenians.

López took the stage, Roglic extended his lead and the Col de la Loze became a modern-day classic.

Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.