The final push to Paris has begun. Durango’s Sepp Kuss and Team Jumbo-Visma were ready.
On a good day for the breakaway, Jumbo-Visma did a strong job to protect the overall lead for Primož Roglic, who will continue to wear the leader’s yellow jersey into a pivotal Stage 17 of the Tour de France on Wednesday.
Roglic, a 30-year-old from Slovenia, maintained his 40-second advantage on fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, 21, of the UAE Team Emirates squad.
“Today was a great day for us,” Roglic said in a Team Jumbo-Visma news release. “We had the stage under control, and we retained the yellow jersey. The team did a fantastic job again by keeping me out of trouble. Also, kudos to the team for the way in which they countered Tadej.”
A breakaway group was allowed to ride away from the peloton Tuesday as the race resumed after Monday’s final rest day of the 21-stage race. Germany’s Lennard Kämna of the Bora-Hansgrohe team surged to a big victory on the 102-mile mountain stage that finished in Villard-de-Lans in the Alps. He finished in 4 hours, 12 minutes, 52 seconds, 1:27 ahead of Ineos Grenadiers climber Richard Carapaz, who earned the most combative rider award for the stage.
Roglic and Pogacar finished alongside each other, 16:48 behind the winning time of Kämna. The big time difference was of no concern, as Kämna entered the day nearly two hours behind Roglic’s lead.
Pogacar attempted a couple of attacks in the final mile, but Jumbo-Visma was there to counter all of his moves to keep Roglic’s lead at 40 seconds. Alongside Roglic the entire way was Kuss, Tom Dumoulin and Wout van Aert.
“I think he wants to make the most out of it this week and take every opportunity to make it difficult for us,” Dumoulin said of Pogacar. “But we had it under control. We still have the yellow jersey and the team is very strong. We have great confidence for tomorrow and the days beyond.”
The pace continued to be high from the start Tuesday with the green jersey battle between the sprinters seemingly as heated as that for yellow.
Breakaway riders won’t be allowed to go so easily Wednesday in what is expected to be a heated battle between Roglic and Pogacar with every second critical going into the Stage 20 individual time trial. Wednesday is the queen stage. It is 105½ miles with a summit finish on Col de la Loze at the resort of Méribel. It’s a new climb for this year’s Tour with some segments with grades higher than 20%.
It is the second beyond category climb of the stage, as the riders also must tackle the mighty Col de la Madeleine. In all, its 24 miles worth of pure uphill between the two hors category climbs.
Kuss has had his eye on this stage for more than a month. He got a chance to ride it during a Jumbo-Visma training camp for the Tour de France. If Kuss and Jumbo-Visma can protect Roglic’s 40-second lead again Wednesday, he is likely to wear the yellow all the way into Paris.
“Tomorrow will be a very tough day,” Roglic said. “We are heading to the highest point in this Tour. It is a very steep final climb. A kind of goat path. We certainly expect the necessary attacks, but if you have the right legs, anything is possible. The team is very strong and we will do our best to defend the yellow. We will fight for every second. We have to focus on ourselves and on our own plan. That is the only thing we can control. It will be a big fight from start to finish. We are ready for that.”