The GC battle at the 2020 Tour de France took a huge turn on Wednesday’s 17th stage as the GC exploded on the slopes of the race’s new mythical mountain, the Col de la Loze.
Miguel Ángel López scored his first Tour de France victory and vaulted onto the podium, while Primož Roglič distanced himself from Tadej Pogačar. Further down the mountain, Rigoberto Urán slipped, Nairo Quintana cratered, and Egan Bernal abandoned.
So, how did the rest of the GC favorites fare? Let’s break down the action:
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
The good news: No good news here.
The bad news: Egan Bernal abandoned the 2020 Tour de France. It was the right move, as the team has said he’s struggling from possible knee pain. And Bernal can still salvage the season with an attempt to win the Vuelta or some other race. There’s not much more to say here, other than I sincerely hope he and Ineos Grenadiers comes back in 2021 prepared to win the race. Watching a team with a budget twice the size of its competitors ride around and hunt for stage wins is not what we expect from this squad.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
The good news: Roglič finished second place on the day and put 15 seconds into chief rival Tadej Pogačar, and his lead in the yellow jersey went out to 57 seconds. Plus, Pogačar rode so confidently on the Col de la Loze, even after Bahrain-Merida set a nasty tempo for much of the day. He had enough confidence to let teammate Sepp Kuss go up the road, and to then stay with Pogačar after Miguel Ángel López attacked, as if to challenge his compatriot to chase. When Pogačar showed signs of tiring, Roglič attacked, showing that there are no friends at the Tour de France, just guys you like who you may someday drop like a sack of hammers.
The bad news: I suppose the only bad news today was that the race finished on a ski slope and Roglič forgot his planks at home.
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)
The good news: Bad news for Nairo today.
The bad news: Quintana’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad Tour de France crashed into the rocks today. He was the primary victim of the Bahrain-Merida tempo and was dropped early. By the end, he lost 20 minutes on the stage, slipped down five positions on GC, and now sits alongside domestique guys on GC.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
The good news: Adam Yates took one step forward and one step back and found himself back in 5th place on GC. It’s an admirable ride for Yates, and he now looks to be firmly in the top-5 zone for the Tour. Such a result at this strange and difficult Tour would represent a big GC rebound for Yates.
The bad news: The podium is probably out of reach for Yates, now that Miguel Ángel López has come to life in the Alps. López put 1:20 into Yates today, and that advantage means that Yates needs to come up with 1:48 in the next few stages. I just don’t see it happening.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates)
The good news: Pogačar is still in second place in the overall, and he still appears to be the biggest challenger to Roglič for the yellow jersey. He’s now at 0:57 on GC, which we all know is a wide margin in today’s uber-competitive Tour de France, but also a margin that could be wiped away by a crash, an untimely flat tire, or a glacier atop the Col dell’Agnello (sorry Steven Kruijswijk). Also, he took the polka-dot jersey, which makes him the top jersey-wearer of this year’s Tour. Should he hold onto both, Pogačar will be buying everyone at UAE-Team Emirates fancy steak dinners and Rolexes with his prize cash.
The bad news: Pogačar, after weeks of attacking, finally looked human on the Col de la Loze. He started to have that ‘Can we slow down now?’ face as the front group rumbled past treeline, and he simply didn’t have the legs to follow López and then Roglič on the final fight up to the summit. He kept the margins small, and only lost 30 seconds to López. Still, now the biggest question of this Tour is whether Pogačar’s weakness on the Col de la Loze is a sign of an impending implosion.
Enric Mas (Movistar)
The good news: My apologies to Enric Mas, who is just now making an appearance in these GC guy roundups. Mas looked like his GC attempt crashed and burned in the Pyrenees. But since then he’s been getting stronger and pulling himself further up the GC. On Wednesday he finished 6th place, just behind Richie Porte, to pull himself into 8th place in GC at 4:18. It’s a steady and impressive ride by a first-time GC leader.
The bad news: Mas hasn’t been able to close all of the gap opened by his dismal ride on the Col de Marie-Blanque, way back on stage 8. By contrast, Miguel Ángel López, who lost a similar amount of time that day, has super-boosted his way onto the podium. But hey, let’s give Mas some credit. He’s only 25 years old and is likely tired of hearing Alejandro Valverde’s old war stories from the early 2000s.
Riche Porte (Trek-Segafredo)
The good news: Porte’s run at the podium continues, and he was among the best climbers on the Col de la Loze. He finished in 5th place on the road and moved up in GC two spots. He’s now in 4th place overall. If the race were to end today, this would be Porte’s best-ever finish in a grand tour.
The bad news: The time gap separating Porte from the podium actually increased, even though his placing on GC got better. He’s now 1:39 behind López, who appears to now be the top climber in this year’s Tour de France. There is still a pathway for Porte to land on the podium, but the margin is narrowing.
Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling)
The good news: Urán’s day could have been better. It could have been worse, of course, but it just wasn’t a great day for him.
The bad news: Urán’s grasp on the podium was finally pried open on the Col de la Loze, and he was among the first GC stars to fall off the back once the top riders began to race. By the summit, he had lost 1:59 to López, and tumbled down three spots on GC into sixth place overall. Plus, he’s now been dropped a few times on the big climbs, which is a sign of a trend. Rigo Urán may be nearing his explosion point. Mikel Landa is just behind him, and Enric Mas is a further minute in arrears. Sixth place is such a difficult position, as it’s one step away from the impressive ‘top-five’ title, and too far from the podium to matter. And sixth isn’t dramatically different from seventh or eighth, once the history books are written about the race. And right now, it seems like Urán is going to have to fight like crazy just to hold onto sixth.
Miguel Ángel López (Team Astana)
The good news: López was the big winner of the day, taking his first-career Tour de France stage win and vaulting a spot forward onto the de facto podium. He’s the only guy who appears to be getting stronger as this Tour rolls along, and his comeback from his disaster in the Pyrénées is finally complete. For days we’ve been watching him attack near the summit of these big climbs and eke out small gaps here and there. Today’s stage win is confirmation that López has the body and brains to thrive at the Tour de France.
The bad news: No bad news for MAL.
Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren)
The good news: Landa had the confidence and cojones to put his Bahrain-McLaren teammates on the front for much of the day to control the race. They went blow-for-blow with Jumbo-Visma, and proved that they are among the top squads in the race. Kudos to Wout Poels, Matej Mohorič, Pello Bilbao, and Damiano Caruso.
The bad news: Alas, Landa didn’t have the legs to finish it off. As soon as Caruso went, Landa simply slipped off the back. He drew criticism from fans online for the move. But hey, we’re here for you, Mikel Landa. You rode with moxie and aggression and all of the superlatives today. Chapeau.