Stage 17 of the Tour de France marked our last difficult day in the mountains. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) claimed the stage win, and Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) extended his lead over his rivals. Having made it through the day, most riders will feel fairly confident they will see Paris on Sunday.
The stage began aggressively. We’ve come to expect the aggressive starts. After a rough day on the road yesterday, the team turned things around today. Riders know that bad days are part of the Tour. Suffering the way they did yesterday is part of the overall experience. One day can be absolutely miserable. The next day can be great. All of our riders had a much better day today than yesterday, and none were in danger of missing out on the time cut.
Pieter Weening made a concerted effort to get in the break, and Michael Albasini was on the attack. Alba was in a break that went on the first climb, the Col de Menté. Pieter got across on the climb, and he stayed out front until the HC-rated Port de Balès when his group of 17 completely disintegrated.
The rest of the team took it as easy as possible in preparation for the next couple of days. We’re hoping to be in the mix tomorrow. The stage will go one of two ways. An escape group will stay away until the finish or we’ll see a bunch sprint. The stage is a focus for us, and we have options for both scenarios. We have Goss for the sprint, but I’m also happy to have someone take their chance from the break. Obviously, a lot of teams will want to get in the move. Tomorrow is the final chance for a breakaway.