Miribel, France: Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez won stage 17 of the Tour de France on Wednesday to climb third in the overall standings as race leader Primoz Roglic extended his advantage.
The race climbed to 2,304m altitude atop the Col de La Loze where Slovenian rookie Tadej Pogacar lost a handful of seconds to his compatriot Roglic in the race for the yellow jersey on a day the 2019 champion Egan Bernal withdrew.
Richard Carapaz produced a doomed solo bid for Ineos as the Giro champion was caught on the ever-changing gradient of the final 7km above 2,000m as the top 10 experienced a slight shake-up.
A day after the race was cleared of Covid-19 to run all the way to Paris on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron was present as the peloton struggled through villages full of ubiquitous baskets of flowers hanging from Swiss-style ski chalets.
In the rarefied air that suits the men from the Andes, the 26-year-old Lopez leapfrogged compatriot Rigoberto Uran and extended his lead over Adam Yates and Richie Porte.
Roglic now leads his young compatriot Pogacar by 54 seconds with just three real races left before the Tour gets to Paris. The 23-year-old Colombian’s team Ineos announced in the morning that he was dropping out ahead of the key 17th stage.
Bernal came into the Tour with a back injury and missing key allies and two of his team then suffered injuries before Bernal himself suffered a meltdown on a tough ascent on Sunday that effectively ended his 2020 campaign as he fell eight minutes behind the pace.
“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” Bernal said in a statement from Ineos.
The stage on Wednesday takes the peloton over the highest peak in this year’s race in a ride that resembles the one where the man from the Andes sealed his breakthrough win last year.
Bernal was a distant 16th in the standings and his team have failed to find their form on the race.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” said Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford.
“Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”
Bernal’s withdrawal almost certainly ends a sequence of five straight Tour de France victories for Ineos and its previous incarnation, Team Sky.
PrimoA3/4 Roglic SLO (Jumbo - Visma)
1 Miguel Angel Lopez COL (Astana Pro Team)
2 PrimoA3/4 Roglic SLO (Jumbo - Visma)
3 Tadej Pogacar SLO (UAE Team Emirates)
Following stages : Sep 17-Stage 18 Meribel to La Roche-sur-Foron, 175 km, Road race.
Sep 18-Stage 19 Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole, 166.5 km, Road race.
Sep 19-Stage 20 Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles, 36.2 km, Individual time trial.
Sep 20-Stage 21 Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris, 122 km, Road race.