• Chris Froome will no doubt be thinking about the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné when he takes on today's stage to Finhaut-Emosson. (AFP)Source: AFP
"Cycling is in love with mountains and the show put on by the climbers," Tour director Christian Prudhomme writes in his preface to this year's Tour roadbook. And so begins our final, four-day, mountain odyssey...
Cycling Central
20 Jul 2016 - 3:28 PM  UPDATED 20 Jul 2016 - 7:40 PM

No, you're not lost - this is the Tour de France. We're just spending the day en Suisse.

It was at his former home located near the Zytglogge clocktower that Berne's most famous resident, Albert Einstein, came up with the the theory of relativity. His notion that the laws of physics are the same everywhere means that each of the 183 remaining riders in this 103rd Tour must arrive at the Finhaut-Emosson dam by their own steam, no matter how tall or short, light or heavy - and the fastest will prevail.

Mountain passes & hills

Km 72.5 - Côte de Saanenmöser: 6.6 kilometre-long climb at 4.8% - category 3
Km 105.0 - Col des Mosses: 6.4 kilometre-long climb at 4.4% - category 3
Km 166.5 - Col de la Forclaz (1,527m): 13 kilometre-long climb at 7.9% - category 1
Km 184.5 - Finhaut-Emosson (1,960m): 10.4 kilometre-long climb at 8.4% - category HC

While never used before at La Grande Boucle, the road to Finhaut-Emosson (also called the Col de la Gueulaz) should not be completely unfamiliar to the pro cycling aficionado.

The 10.4 kilometre wall has been already used at the Tour de Suisse, Tour de l'Avenir, and, most recently, the penultimate stage of the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné: "At the finish, we could see that the riders were terribly exhausted by the examination they'd just undergone, such is its steepness," recalls course designer Thierry Gouvenou in the official Tour guide. It was won by Lieuwe Westra from a breakaway and like today, was preceded by the Col de la Forclaz; comparable though not quite equal in its severity.

That day at the Dauphiné, Alberto Contador attacked two kilometres from the summit of Finhaut-Emosson to move back into the race lead, eight seconds ahead of overnight leader and the defending champion (not to mention defending Tour champion), Chris Froome. However, in spending the entire week marking each other, they overlooked, or at least underestimated, the threat posed by third-placed Andrew Talansky, 39 seconds adrift of the race lead. And on the final stage - a 130 kilometre journey to the Courchevel ski station and not unlike today's seventeenth leg at Le Tour - the young American they call the pitbull brazenly placed himself in the early break, which went away on the first of the day's four climbs.

Contador and Froome did not see Talanksy again till the awards ceremony, where he donned the final maillot jaune. A spent Contador would finish second overall, 27 seconds behind. As for Froome? Well, despite the efforts of three super-domestiques, he blew to smithereens and finished over five minutes down on team-mate Mikel Nieve who won the stage, plummeting from second to twelfth overall.

It was a portent of what was to come that July. Having finished an inconspicuous seventh on the Dauphiné's classement général, it would be another underestimated character, Vincenzo Nibali, that would claim the year's main event using decidedly irregular tactics (who can forget that mud-affected day to Arenberg?), while Froome and Contador both failed to finish, neither making it as far as the first rest day.

So then... Do you still think the Tour's over?

Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, says...

"From north to south, it'll be a day of discovery and one-hundred percent Swiss with a spectacular finish situated at the Emosson dam. There will be opportunities to seize on the 13 kilometres heading to the summit of the Col de la Forclaz, and then on the 10 kilometres that remain to be covered to reach the dam."

What they say...

Chris Froome (Team Sky)

"I'm looking forward to the Alps. I'm motivated and I think the team's been great. I'm really looking forward to these last few days now. The team's in fantastic shape. I don't think we've ever been at this point in the race and still had nine riders left. That's a great advantage for us. The guys are doing well and the morale is good. We've got a lot to fight for still."

Richie Porte (BMC Racing)

"I'm in good condition and it is a hard four-day block coming up after the rest day. I think I've got everything to play for now; I'm not too far off podium. It's a big goal, so bring it on."

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

"There have been moments when I wanted to attack. On (Stage 12 to Mont) Ventoux I was the only one to attack but we saw what a strong team (Froome) has. You have to sit down and look logically at where the time was lost. The truth is it was the time trial (on Stage 13) above all that played to his strengths, and we couldn't really do anything about that. "It doesn't always work out how you want it to, but we'll keep dreaming of yellow. Like last year, right up to the final day we won't give in."

Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing)

"I won't say the Tour has gone perfect but I still have good sensations and we still have me and Richie up there. So, so far it's been a successful Tour. Hopefully I can just recover and be ready for these last four days. We want to achieve the best result we can. As of now, I'm not really going to put a number on it but we've got to be happy with our best. We have to see how things play out; there's a number of different tactics."

Weather: Still very sunny. Temperatures around 29-33°C in the lowest point of the stage, 20°C at the finish. Weak northeasterly. Possible gusts from 30-40 km/h at the finish.

Who will win Stage 17 of the TdF?
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* Please note percentages are rounded to one decimal place.

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