The 32km (20mi) individual time trial from Embrun to Chorges went two ways, up and down. Up twice, down twice. The ups were two second-category climbs, first a 6.4km (4mi) hill, followed by a descent and a 6.9km (4.3mi) hill, followed by a drop to the finish. As always with the Tour, there are multiple races going on at once. The main two today were the stage victory and the race for the Yellow Jersey. Time trial specialists rode as easy as they could yesterday, in order to put in a winning ride today. The riders in the top twenty of the Tour have to give their all, as they did yesterday, as the time gained or lost will matter in Paris—and very little time separates second through sixth places. Weather was bound to affect the results, as the forecast called for rain.

The Points Competition, the one that matters to Peter Sagan and Cannondale Pro Cycling, awards points to the first fifteen finishers, was going to require a super-hard effort for Sagan. While he did such a ride in the first time trial, it was clear that today would not see a similar effort. Sagan, equipped on his standard road bike, with a disc wheel, clip-on aero bars, and a time trial helmet, rode comfortably, fast enough to make the time cut, but not enough to challenge for a top placing. But with a 99-point lead and few opportunities for those behind him to gain points, there was little incentive to ride full gas.

The rain came late; meaning most of the racers faced dry conditions. Even after the rain stopped, most of the top riders had damp roads to contend with, not great for full-speed descending. Adding to the complexity of the task is the choice of many of the racers to switch bikes at the summit of the final climb to use their more aerodynamic, and heavier, time trial bikes for the descent to the finish.

Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, who lost any hopes of overall victory on flat roads several days ago, rocketed to the top of the leader board, displacing long-time leader Tejay Van Garderen, another deposed favorite, with a great time. Valverde raced on largely dry roads. Then Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez, never a factor on flat time trials, bested Valverde's time. Rodriguez wants to finish on the podium; his time might help him get there. And then Alberto Contador squeaked past Rodriguez. Contador not only held the lead, but rode himself into second place overall. Then, the roads, which had dried for most of the top riders, were coated with moisture by a light drizzle for Yellow Jersey Chris Froome of Sky. It looked like that was the end of his chance to expand his lead. But the switch to a time trial bike for Froome, a choice Contador didn't avail himself of, meant that the deficit Froome had at the top of the last mountain was more than erased on the descent to the line, and Froome won the sage by nine seconds.

Tomorrow is one of the most anticipated stages of this year's Tour. The Eighteenth Stage, while only 168.5km long, climbs the legendary L'Alpe d'Huez twice. The riders first encounter it at 104.5km into the race, just after the intermediate sprint, climb the Alpe, climb the Col de Sarenne, then descend to the foot of the Alpe and climb it again, with the finish line at the top. Cannondale Pro Cycling will probably work to get Peter Sagan into an early break. If he does that, he'll do all he can to win the intermediate sprint. From there, the contenders for overall victory will try to thin out the field on the first ascent of the Alpe, and then try fight for stage honors and time on the second ascent.


2013 Tour de France
Stage 17: Embrun to Chorges (ITT) 32km


Stage Results

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                at     0:51:33             
2. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff  in     0:00:09             
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha                           0:00:10             
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff                      0:00:23             
5. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team            0:00:30           


Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling

20. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                               0:02:42           
31. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                          0:03:20           
60. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        0:04:52
91. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                              0:05:58           
105. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       0:06:13           
122. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                    0:06:30             
123. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        0:06:32           
148. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          0:07:06           


General Classification

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                        66:07:09           
2. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff          0:04:34             
3. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff                      0:04:51             
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team                0:06:23             
5. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team       0:06:58           


General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling

75. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                              1:38:02           
96. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        1:53:54           
107. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                             2:02:28           
109. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       2:05:04           
112. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        2:07:13           
120. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          2:17:41             
121. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        2:17:43           
163. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                    2:47:56           


Points Competition

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling                 377 pts
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step           278       
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol                                       223       
4. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano                          177       
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha                                      157