Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) won stage 17 of the Tour de France by out lasting Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) to the finish line at Finhaut-Emosson. Chris Froome (Team Sky) held on to overall leader’s the yellow jersey.
Stage 17 was the first really tough Alpine stage of this year’s Tour and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were looking forward to getting into the early breakaway in the hope of contending for the stage win. A number of teams had the same idea which made for an incredibly fast start. Just more than 51km were completed in the first hour of racing in fact.
Daniel Teklehaimanot was very active in the early part of the stage, as was Serge Pauwels. The break kept on getting chased down though and it took over 70 kilometers for a group of riders to get a real gap. 11 riders went clear followed by a chase group of 8 more riders. Pauwels made it into the chase group for our African Team.
There was so much firepower in the front group with the likes of the World Champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Pantano and Zakarin among others present, that it was near on impossible to bring them back. With no GC threats ahead, the peloton sat up and let the break go while Pauwels group was stuck in between.
There were 2 big climbs to finish off the stage today and this is where the definitive moves were made. Majka and Pantano got a gap on the rest of the break during the descent to the final climb. Zakarin was able to bridge the gap and then put in an attack of his own on the final climb which could not be matched. With no opportunity for a top result on the stage by the time we reached the final 2 climbs, Pauwels rode within himself to finish as our best placed rider, in 29th on the stage.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director
It was a bit of a frustrating day because Serge clearly has some good legs and he is riding really well. He just needed a bit of luck, he was in the wrong half of the group when it split and missed the opportunity to go across to the leaders. On the penultimate climb he was riding as fast as anybody up the mountain. The front group weren’t riding away from him and the GC contenders behind weren’t catching him. So it wasn’t an ability thing it was a positioning thing which is frustrating for Serge, I felt sorry for him.