Preview: 2013 Tour de France — Stage 17

Embrun to Chorges TT (32km)

Wednesday, July 17 4:14 A.M. EDT – 11:19 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar

Stage 16 went as expected. A morning breakaway made it all the way and the GC riders attacked each other on the final climb. Hopefully the favorites still have something left in the tank because this time trial will eat a rider up and spit him out if he doesn’t bring his A-game.

It’s another short time trial — only 32 kilometers — but it’s very difficult. This is the hardest individual time trial in the recent history of the Tour de France. The stage starts out with the Cat. 2 climb of the Côte de Puy Sanières right from the start house. The 6.4km to the top rise on an uneven average gradient of six percent and it won’t be easy to keep a smooth rhythm on the lunging climb. The first time check lies at the summit. Riders with great bike handling skills will be able to take back some time on the tricky descent that follows.

The second climb, the Côte de Réallon, is 6.9km long and has an average gradient of 6.3 percent. The roads are bigger and the angle is more regular compared to the Côte de Puy-Sanières. The second time check is located on the top of the climb and riders continue onto a false flat before they start the final descent. This downhill section is much easier and faster than the first one and we can expect a very fast finish, favoring the big engines who managed to limit their time losses on the climbs. The final kilometer is the only flat portion of the route.

Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is the world champion, but he barely kept Chris Froome (Sky) behind him in the Tour’s first individual time trial. This time there are two climbs on the menu and that makes Froome the one and only favorite for this stage. As we’ve seen over 2.5 weeks, no one in the race can match Froome uphill and against the clock; he’s simply in a league of his own among the GC riders.

There is probably only one thing that can prevent Chris Froome from winning this stage and that’s the rain. As of Tuesday evening, there was a 40-percent chance of rain when final riders start and if the roads are wet, the descents will be very dangerous. —MIKKEL CONDÉ

Follow Mikkel Condé on Twitter @mrconde and visit C-Cycling to read more about stage 17 and the outsiders for this time trial.