This year’s Tour de France has been marked by the yellow and black jerseys of Jumbo-Visma filling our screens. But it was the red and yellow of Bahrain-McLaren that dominated the peloton through the race’s ‘Queen Stage’ on Wednesday.
The Bahraini outfit took the fight to Jumbo-Visma in the Alps on stage 17 of the Tour as they looked to vault team leader Mikel Landa onto the podium. The Basque climber had started the day in seventh overall, just 42 seconds off third-best rider Rigoberto Urán.
However, after kilometer upon kilometer of Bahrain-McLaren towing the peloton through the mountains Wednesday, Landa faded when his teammates finally ran out steam on the super-steep final of the Col de la Loze. He comes out of the day exactly where he started – if not worse – now seventh overall but over two minutes away from the top-three.
“In the end I just ran out of gas,” Landa said after the stage. “I couldn’t follow alone the rhythm of Jumbo-Visma or the others. I didn’t have my best day. The chances to do something are running out, and today was one of the best opportunities, so we wanted to try and see what happened. I was suffering at the pace [set by the team], but the others were suffering, too. You had to try.”
Matej Mohorič, Pello Bilbao, Wout Poels and Damiani Caruso shepherded Landa though the high-altitude stage over the Col de la Madeleiene and up the Col de la Loze, taking on the responsibility for controlling the break and stripping down the peloton in a way that Jumbo-Visma has done through much of the race so far.
After last-teammate standing Caruso had peeled off the front of the group of leaders as the steepest slopes of the Loze began to bite, Landa vanished out of the back less than a kilometer later.
The Basque finished seventh on the stage, 1:20 back on stage-winner and podium rival Miguel Angel López. Not only did the Colombian take stage honors but also moved up to third on GC with a cosy 90-second buffer on fourth-place Richie Porte.
“We came to the Tour to fight for the podium, and the important thing is we tried, we gave all we had,” Bilbao said after the stage. “We thought it was a good day to break the Jumbo rhythm, we tried something different maybe the result is not what we expected, but we can’t do anything more.”
With Landa a notedly poor time trialist, the 30-year-old had to make every second count in the mid-week trio of mountain stages before the individual test on the Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday. Bahrain-McLaren rolled the dice on the toughest stage of the three, but Landa didn’t have the legs to deliver on the Loze, and may have just waved goodbye to his last chance at this year’s Tour.
“Tomorrow is complicated, especially after the effort of today, and nearly three weeks of racing, things could be chaotic tomorrow,” he said. “It won’t be easy to attack.”