TOUR DE FRANCE 2023 | STAGE 17 | SAINT-GERVAIS MONT-BLANC > COURCHEVEL
After Jai Hindley and Carlos Rodriguez, Felix Gall became the third Tour de France debutant to win a stage – a big mountain stage also – in the 110th edition as the Austrian from AG2R-Citroën soloed up to col de la Loze to win at Courchevel before Simon Yates and Jonas Vingegaard who won another duel with Tadej Pogacar by a huge margin.
CICCONE FIRST AT LES SAISIES
155 riders took the start of stage 17 at 12.34. One non-starter: Alexis Renard (Cofidis). French champion Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) were first on the attack but it didn’t work out. Tadej Pogacar crashed after 15km of racing. Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Neilson Powless, Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Giulio Ciccone, Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroën), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Victor Lafay (Cofidis), Kevin Vermaerke (DSM-Firmenich), Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech), Simon Yates, Lawson Craddock, Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla), Clément Champoussin (Arkea-Samsic), Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X) rode away after 20km of racing, which was 8km before the col des Saisies. Despite a regrouping, Ciccone crested col des Saisies (cat. 1, km 28) in first position before his team-mate Skjelmose. The Italian rode away in the downhill along with Alaphilippe and Neilands.
CICCONE FIRST AT CORMET DE ROSELEND AND LONGEFOY
35 riders gathered at the front 13km before the summit of Cormet de Roselend: Tiesj Benoot, Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma) Rafal Majka, Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), David Gaudu, Stefan Küng, Valentin Madouas, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Magnus Cort, Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost), Julian Alaphilippe, Dries Devenyns (Soudal-Quick Step), Pello Bilbao, Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Giulio Ciccone, Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Ben O’Connor, Nans Peters, Felix Gall (Ag2r-Citröen), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar), Matthew Dinham, Kevin Vermaerke (DSM-Firmenich), Hugo Houle, Nick Schultz, Krists Neilands (Israel-PremierTech), Simon Yates, Lawson Craddock, Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla), Clément Champoussin, Simon Guglielmi (Arkéa-Samsic), Alexey Lutsenko, Gianni Moscon (Astana), Tobias Johannessen, Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X). Ciccone and Skjelmose were again first and second at Cormet de Roselend and côte de Longefoy. In the valley, Küng kept the breakaway alive while Van Aert was pulling the yellow jersey group strongly. The time difference was 3’ with 50km to go.
GALL AND THE AG2R-CITROËN TRADITION IN THE MOUNTAINS
15 riders did most of the ascent to col de la Loze together at the front while the group of the Maillot Jaune was in no hurry to catch them. However, Tadej Pogacar was distanced by Vingegaard and his team-mates 16km before the end. With 13km to go, Gall rode away solo after O’Connor sacrificed his chances for him.
The Austrian crested col de la Loze in first position and won the Souvenir Henri-Desgrange 20″ ahead of Simon Yates. He was on his way to a solo victory to maintain the tradition of AG2R-Citroën: the French team based the Savoy where stage 16 took place won a mountain stage of the Tour de France in 2020 with Nans Peters in the Pyrénées, in 2021 and 2022 with Ben O’Connor and Bob Jungels in the Alps. Vingegaard crossed the line in third position 5’45″before Pogacar. The advantage of the Dane over the Slovenian is 7’35″ with four stages to go.
FELIX GALL: “I WAS AFRAID TO GET CAUGHT”
“This whole year has been incredible. And now to do so well in the Tour de France, to win the queen stage, it’s incredible. I just want to thank my team, because they have given me so much. It’s not easy to do a three-week stage race and then also I had the role of leader after few days. We slowly focused on that. I stressed a lot about that. Yet in the last few days I felt more and more comfortable with it. I was afraid I was going to be caught in the final kilometres, or in the final descent. I was feeling great all day long. I didn’t think the break had big chance of going for stage win, but we decided to go in order to get a head start in the last climb so I could play my chances in the final. I knew the stage was super hard, and I knew that if we went at a high pace all day I was in a good place to go for victory. Ben [O’Connor] did a great job on the last climb. I felt so good at the bottom and I just waited for the steep part. Towards the top, I didn’t feel great anymore, but I wanted to give it a try. I can’t say is a childhood dream. But one and a half years ago I couldn’t imagine I’d be in this position now.”
GIULIO CICCONE: “I’M CLOSE TO WINNING THE KOM”
“It’s been a good outcome for the stage. Today we just focused on following our plan and go full gas for the KOM points in the first three climbs. Skjelmose did great job, he put me in the breakaway and I had good legs. I spent almost everything chasing points in the first three climbs, so I decided to ride the final climb just saving energy. We are close to winning the Mountains classification now. It will be hard, though, because Jonas Vingegaard is quite close. Yet I am going to focus on recovery and then think of strategy for the next few days.”
JONAS VINGEGAARD: “I’M REALLY RELIEVED”
“I didn’t expect to have such a good day. It’s hard to describe. I’m really relieved. Getting a seven-minute gap is great. We are not in Paris yet, there are tricky stages to come, and I’m sure Tadej will try to do something. There are still some exciting things to come in this Tour. I was behind Tadej when he crashed. Some guy touched his wheel. It’s unfortunate for Tadej that this happened. We waited for him to come back after the crash in order not to profit from this situation. It’s hard to tell if the crash was the reason for his performance.”
TADEJ POGACAR: “ONE OF THE WORST DAYS OF MY LIFE ON THE BIKE”
“I’m “dead”. This is of course a very big disappointment, and definitely not what I wanted at the start of the stage. I don’t know what happened to me. I tried to eat as much as possible but nothing went to my legs. Everything stayed in my stomach. I was really empty after 3h30m, at the bottom of the Col de la Loze climb. Had I not had such great support in the climb, I may have lost the podium. I kept fighting with Marc [Soler]. I’m grateful to him, and to all my teammates.”
“My crash came from a very unlucky situation. The break was taking off when some guy braked just in front of me and I clipped his wheel. Shit happens. My knee doesn’t hurt too much because of the crash – just a little bit. But I don’t know how it might have affected me. I think I was much better in the Granon stage, so I have to say that this has been one of the worst days of my life on the bike. But I had to keep fighting, so Marc Soler really pushed me to my limit and we made it to the finish. I hope to recover over the next two days. We can for the stage win in stage 20. It can be a good day to aim for the victory. The team was super strong today. If we can get a stage win there, it could be great. That and keeping the podium with me and Adam would be a good finish.”