Yesterday Chris Froome (Team Sky) all but sealed the Yellow Jersey after a superb time-trial in the Alps which have left the GC contenders trailing behind but now the battle for the podium will take centre stage as the Tour de France continues.
Ultimately the organisers wanted the battle for the Maillot Jaune to go down to the wire; but they will have to settle for the next best thing as five riders in with a shout for a podium place on Sunday.
The gap from second to sixth is only separated by a minute or so; currently Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) sits in second place at 3mins52s, then the Briton Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) is 4mins16s, then one of the pre-race favourites Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is 4min37s in arrears, and then Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Richie Porte (BMC) are 4mins57s and 5mins behind respectively.
And today en-route to another famous climb, Mont Blanc we should be plenty of attacking racing as those five riders look to stake a claim for a podium spot alongside Froome, barring the Sky leader doesn’t have a horrendous final two days in the Alps.
Stage 18 recap – Froome lays down a marker after superb TT effort
The second of the time-trials was a tough uphill mountainous one in the Alps; and a stage that many thought Froome would like, and excel at. And he certainly did as he broke the 30 minute barrier for the 17km ride and took time on all of his rivals.
It was a statement of intent from the 31-year-old; not only he cemented his grip on the yellow Jersey he sent out a message to the runner-up Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) that the TT in Rio in a couple of weeks might not be a foregone conclusion.
The Dutch rider took the other TT stage victory on day 13 and was looking like he was going to take his third stage victory of the Tour, but Froome showed his class and Holland’s great hope for a medal at the Olympics had to settle for second, 23 seconds behind the all-conquering Froome.
Elsewhere in the event Yates produced another good performance in a discipline that is certainly not his strongest; and if the British rider can hold his form the Aussie team will get two riders on a podium at a two separate Grand Tours, as Yates looks to emulate Esteban Chaves’ terrific effort at the Giro D’Italia earlier this summer.
Stage 19 – Mont Blanc beckons
It’s going to be a hellacious day in the Alps as the riders will do an awful lot of climbing in the space of 146km. For the riders it will be one difficult day but for the fans they should expect firework’s – there is still a lot to play for despite the Yellow Jersey looking to heading in the direction of Froome for a third straight year.
There are four climbs the peloton will tackle today starting with the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (9.8km, 6.9%), then the Col de la Forclaz de Queige (5.6km, 7.8%), Montee de Bisanne (12.4km, 8.2%), and finally Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc le Bettex (9.8km, 8%) is the end game.
It might be a day for another breakaway win, or it could be a titanic battle between the riders gunning for a podium place, but it certainly won’t be boring as the Tour is reaching the last leg.