A likely sprint stage.
Stage 17 Review: another day, another giant breakaway and if it included several usual suspects like Bauke Mollema, Rafał Majka and Dylan Teuns it was Michael Woods who won the stage and made an emotional tribute to the still-born son he lost earlier this year. It was Woods’ first big win and with hindsight on ideal terrain for him, the severity of the slope was almost akin to running rather than riding. Everyone seemed to suffer and helpers were on hand to catch the floundering riders after they crossed the line.
Behind Alejandro Valverde was the best of the GC contenders and gained a few seconds on Simon Yates and the race leader has every right to be concerned given the races he’s lost this year but all the same he ought to fancy his chances and if anything after this stage things are easier because both Nairo Quintana and Steven Kruijswijk lost time and so there are fewer riders to mark. Enric Mas is now up to third place overall.
The Route: 186km across the plains of Catalonia to Lleida.
The Finish: look at that risky ramp with 2km go to on the profile above. Only it’s fake, the finish today has no such descent. Instead there’s a small hump to get over in the final kilometre, not much but enough to make riders change gear once and then back again, before an uphill drag to the line at 2.5%.
The Contenders: Elia Viviani (Quick Step) is the obvious pick, he’s won two stages, he’s got the lead out train and he’s still in the race. But sprints are sometimes chaotic, he’s lost out to Nacer Bouhanni earlier in the race.
The flat finish allows a few other riders into the mix, notably Max Walscheid (Team Sunweb) and Danny van Poppel (Lotto-Jumbo) who has won here in Lleida before when he took a stage of the 2015 Vuelta. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) could be close too, he ought to have gone home in the race but has stayed on and presumably the form is improving.
Weather: warm, sunny and calm. 33°C
Tune in: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.