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The Col de la Loze had generated a lot of hype before this year’s Tour de France, and boy did it deliver.
Wednesday’s 17th stage of the Tour saw a high-octane high-altitude battle on the newest, toughest climb in the Alps, with Miguel Ángel López storming to victory, breaking into the top-3 on GC.
Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar locked horns behind López, and it was Roglič that came out tops, dropping his rival to grab valuable seconds and grow his GC lead to 57 seconds.
Time to deconstruct the drama, let’s roundtable!
Is the Col de la Loze the new ‘King of the Alps’?
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): Why not? Maybe I was super-excited to see it because of the hype, but I thought it was spectacular. It looks beautiful and natural, rather than uniform and manufactured like an Alpe d’Huez-style ski station ascent. And the way the final kilometers roll from 20+ percent to downhill or flat and then kick back up again added such a different dynamic to the final. Sure it doesn’t have the history of Huez et al — but I’m a millennial and need drama and hype!
Fred Dreier (@freddreier): The Col de la Loze was a magnificent climb, and it really did challenge the riders. But sorry, the king of the Alps is still l’Alpe d’Huez. The Col de la Loze needs about 40 more years of history before it becomes a mythical mountain on the same level as the Izoard, or the Galibier.
Dan Cavallari (@browntiedan): It certainly was spectacular and put itself on par with the likes of the Galibier! What an exciting stage. We saw a team make a major gamble and lose big time, we saw Sepp Kuss emerge as a super-domestique powerhouse — despite what could have been a tactical mistake when he distanced Roglič — we saw a GC shake-up…what more could you ask for? I think the Col de la Loze may have just written itself into Tour lore with its steep finishing pitches interspersed with little rollers. This climb was a ski run before it was paved, and that made for some unique racing at the finish. I think this one’s going to be a new favorite.
Ben Delaney: No, it is not yet steeped in decades of cycling lore. But! What a great day of racing it facilitated. That — to me — was the most exciting stage in this year’s Tour. The final pitches with their undulating gradients exacerbated the tension and the gaps. I have nothing but positive things to say about that final climb.
Was this Pogačar’s big chance? Does he still have time to overhaul Roglič?
Fred: This was a big chance, but not the biggest chance. Look at Thursday’s stage — it looks like shark’s teeth with a constant barrage of climbs. It’s very similar to 20th stage of the Vuelta a España, when Pogačar attacked for his third stage win and to vault onto the final podium. Pogačar needs that type of chaos to shine. While it’s doubtful that Pogačar can win this Tour de France, he can still try tomorrow.
Ben: Yes, it was. On paper he still has time, but that was the last big summit finish, and as Jumbo has showed the dominating menace of the yellow train isn’t fading in the mountains. Pogačar’s best option was a mano-a-mano battle on the steepest of steeps. He got that today, and Roglič got away from him. Also, you didn’t ask, but can we just tip our hats to Sepp? Wow!
Jim: I am a lot less hopeful for Pog now. I can’t help but feel that if he’s going to take one minute on Roglič, he needs an uphill finish to do it. With the final Alpine stage Thursday finishing on a downhill, there’s more time for attacks to be neutralized by Jumbo-Visma. I know he took time over and back down the Peyresourde on stage 8, but he was less a threat then. And though Pogačar is a great time trialist, one minute on the final 36km mountain time trial is a serious challenge.
Dan: At this point I think it would take a major tactical blunder from Jumbo-Visma for Pogačar to overtake Roglič, who looks unbeatable with guys like Dumoulin and Kuss sticking with him on the big climbs. But stranger things have happened at the Tour. Despite losing time to Roglič today, Pogačar still looks quite strong. If anything, Pogačar can cement his place on the podium over the next few stages, even a solid second-place. Remember: Pogačar is also the Slovenian national time trial champion, so he has a big opportunity during the Tour’s only time trial coming up.
Is the race now down to how the current top three will order themselves? Or can someone still break into the podium slots?
Dan: I have to say, I was pretty impressed with Richie Porte today. Could he sneak onto the podium? It seems unlikely, but not impossible. My gut says the top three is already determined, but my heart says I hope Trek-Segafredo will make the remaining stages of the Tour explosive in an effort to get Porte on the box. The time trial will be pivotal here, and it seems well-suited to Porte. If he’s got a shot at the podium, we’ll see him make his play for it during the time trial.
Ben: Barring tragedy, yes.
Jim: Not necessarily. López has over a 90-second buffer on Porte in third, but that could evaporate in the space of one bad climb – and Richie is back to his best on the ascents. Plus Porte is great on a time trial, López less so. And then you’ve got Yates, Urán and Landa still two minutes or less back on López. The Colombian made a major move toward the final podium Wednesday, but it’s not in the bag yet.
Fred: No. Miguel Ángel López probably needs a few more seconds in the bank if he wants to hold off Richie Porte for third in the final individual time trial. While it’s likely that this will be the final podium, it is not guaranteed.