• Romain Bardet finished behind Uran and Froome on stage 17 and is tied on 27 seconds behind the race leader but third overall (AAP)Source: AAP
Before stage 18 of last year's Tour, runner-up Romain Bardet faced a deficit to race leader Chris Froome (Sky) of over four minutes. This year at the same point, just a 27 second gulf lies between the two.
Cycling Central

AG2R La Mondiale
20 Jul 2017 - 9:41 AM  UPDATED 20 Jul 2017 - 9:44 AM

That was before a 17 kilometre individual time trial stage where Bardet hemorrhaged a further 42 seconds. Bardet then claimed a mountain stage victory on stage 19 to improve his overall placing - from fifth to second - and gained a handful more seconds on the final stage before Paris. 

But the four minute and five second gap remained. 

This year of course, it's a little different. Stage 18 will be raced in the Alps, then there's a transition stage, and finally the 22 kilometre time trial in Marseilles precedes the Paris procession.

Roglic strongest as contenders slug it out in the Alps
Former ski-jumper Primoz Roglic (Lotto NL-Jumbo) proved the strongest in the French Alps, the only surviving member of the breakaway after a torrid day in the mountains.

The Frenchman finds himself third overall behind Rigoberto Uran but tied with him time-wise, 27 seconds behind Froome, after the pair outsprinted Bardet on stage 17 to more bonus seconds. 

“I was racing to win," Bardet said. "I did my maximum on the Galibier, and was close to making the difference.

"I missed some allies at one point, but I do not regret it.You have to be patient and consistent in the Tour de France. With 25 kilometres of downhill with a headwind, it was more difficult to distance Froome."

With Bardet's limited time trialling ability compared to Uran and Froome, Bardet knows he must pounce on stage 18.  

"Tomorrow we have a summit finish at an important place for cycling on the Izoard, and it will be important to be at least as strong as today.”