AG2R Citroën’s Felix Gall launched an impressive solo attack with 6 km to go of the toughest climb of this year’s Tour – the Col de Loze – and held his lead to the finish despite the efforts of Simon Yates and Jonas Vingegaard.
AG2R Citroën displayed flawless tactics as they rode on the front of the longstanding breakaway from the very bottom of the brutal climb.
Previous AG2R team leader Ben O’Connor took the brunt of the work as a super-domestique to new team leader Felix Gall.
Meanwhile, yellow jersey and defending champion Jonas Vingegaard has all but won this year’s Tour de France as Tadej Pogačar hemorrhaged time as he couldn’t keep up with the pace set by Ineos Grenadiers in the yellow jersey group.
Jonas Vingegaard now sits 7 minutes and 35 seconds clear of 2nd-placed Pogačar and, assuming he stays on his bike, has essentially won this year’s Tour de France in two consecutive killer blows in the Stage 16 time trial and today in the mountains.
It was a sad sight to see, as Pogačar said on the UAE Team radio “I’m gone, I’m dead”, as he dropped off the back.
The credit has to go to Jonas Vingegaard, though, who dropped the remainder of the group shortly after Pogačar cracked and chased for the stage win, eventually finishing 3rd in today’s stage.
It goes to show how strong Felix Gall’s ride was, though, that despite the fact that the yellow jersey was hunting him down in the best form of his life, he essentially retained his time gap, losing very little time to Vingegaard and his efforts won him his first ever stage at the Tour.
This Year’s Queen Stage Delivers on the drama
Stage 17 of the Tour de France 2023 featured over 5400 m of climbing, the highest point in this year’s Tour, nearly 166 km of distance, and four categorized climbs, easily making it this year’s queen stage.
In fact, it would have been the queen stage (the name given to the Tour’s hardest day) in any of the past 10 editions of the Tour as it featured the most climbing of any stage for over 10 years.
The behemoth mountains today promised drama, with the expectation that Tadej Pogačar would launch an attack to try and claw back some time as Jonas Vingegaard took 1 minute 38 seconds out of him in yesterday’s time trial.
But today just wasn’t Tadej Pogačar’s day, epitomized by a minor crash just 15 km in which left him bleeding from his knee. After the Slovenian cracked later in the day, Vingegaard attacked and took nearly 6 further minutes out of the Slovenian.
Meanwhile, further drama two and a half minutes up the road as the longstanding breakaway group – which contained GC riders such as Pello Bilbao, Carlos Rodriguez, Simon Yates, Jai Hindley, and David Gaudu – began to splinter.
Ben O’Connor had dropped off the front after leaving the charge for nearly half of the 28 km climb (and was then humorously offered a slice of pizza by a spectator), and his teammate Felix Gall sprung into action and launched an attack.
Immediately he distanced himself from the leading group, and the only rider to come close to keeping on his wheel was Simon Yates, who managed to limit the gap between himself and the Austrian to just 20 seconds but was unable to close it in the final 13 km.
Has Vingegaard Won The 2023 Tour de France?
With well over seven minutes lead and just one mountain stage remaining, it would seem so.
Although nothing is certain until the Champs-Élysées, it seems entirely insurmountable now for the tiring Pogačar to claw back so much time with such limited opportunity to do so and the form that Vingegaard is in.
It would likely take a crash or a devastating crack on the final mountain stage for Pogačar to get anywhere near the Dane.
It has been an incredibly entertaining battle between the two this year, but in the last two stages, Vingegaard has shown his class and opened up a gulf between the two riders, pretty much winning his second consecutive yellow jersey.
“I just want to say thank you to the team, they have given me so much”
Felix Gall was elated at his team’s support in an interview with ITV 4. “It’s not easy to do a three-week stage race and I also had the role of leader after a few days, so we slowly focussed on that.
“Ben did a great job on the last climb and I was just waiting for the steep part to attack,” referring to the huge shift put in by teammate and super-domestique Ben O’Connor.
“I was feeling really great. Actually, I was feeling great all day.”
Vingegaard also caught up with ITV 4 before donning his new yellow jersey in a somewhat modest assessment of his chances of winning the Tour.
“Of course, we are super happy – it’s hard to describe. Now to have more than seven minutes is really incredible.”
“Of course, the Tour de France isn’t over yet, and I’m sure Tadej will try something on the last three stages. So we have to keep fighting, we’re not in Paris yet.”
Tour de France 2023 Stage 17 Results
1. Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen/AUT): 4:49:08
2. Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla/GBR): + 34 seconds
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious/SPA): + 1 minute, 38 seconds
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma/DEN): + 1 minute, 52 seconds
5. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ/FRA): + 2 minutes, 9 seconds
6. Tobias Halland (Uno-X/NOR): + 2 minutes, 39 seconds
7. Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla/AUS): + 2 minutes, 50 seconds
8. Rafa Majka (UAE Team Emirates/POL): + 3 minutes, 43 seconds
9. Adam Yates (UAE-Team Emirates/GBR): + 3 minutes, 43 seconds
10. Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma/NED): + 3 minutes, 49 seconds
Tour De France 2023 General Classification Standings After Stage 17
1. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma/DEN): 67:57:51
2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates/SLO): + 7 minutes, 35 seconds
3. Adam Yates (UAE-Team Emirates/GBR): + 10 minutes, 45 seconds
4. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers/SPA): + 12 minutes, 01 seconds
5. Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla/GBR): + 12 minutes, 19 seconds
6. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious/SPA): + 12 minutes, 50 seconds
7. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe/AUS): + 13 minutes, 50 seconds
8. Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroen/AUT): + 16 minutes, 11 seconds
9. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma/USA): + 16 minutes, 49 seconds
10. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ/FRA): + 17 minutes, 57 seconds