European champion Matteo Trentin soloed to his first Tour de France victory in five years and the Mitchelton-SCOTT team’s fourth of the race on stage 17 into Gap. The Italian made it into the break of the day before attacking over the final climb and soloing to an impressive win by over 30 seconds.
160 riders took the start of stage 17 at Pont du Gard with two non-starters: Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Cees Bol (Sunweb). The stage was seen by many as the last chance for the opportunists to succeed before the race heads back into the mountains tomorrow and as a result, a big fight to get down the road ensued as soon as the flag dropped on the outskirts of Pont du Gard.
As expected, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was the first rider to try create a breakaway. After 5km of racing, a 34-man leading group was formed in several waves, comprising Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Omar Fraile, Gorka Izagirre and Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Simon Clarke and Tom Scully (EF Education First), Chris Juul-Jensen and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Greg van Avermaet and Michael Schär (CCC), Sven Erik Bystrom, Rui Costa, Sergio Henao and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Bauke Mollema, Toms Skujins and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Natnael Berhane, Jesús Herrada, Anthony Pérez and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis), De Gendt and Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Xandro Meurisse and Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben King (Dimension Data).
With several teams missing out on the move, the peloton set about chasing the escapees down as the gap was held at around one-minute. Eventually the chasing teams gave up on their attempts at catching the break and succumbed to the pressure from the general classifications teams who were hoping for an easier day in the saddle. As the bunch sat up the advantage of the break quickly went out and stood at over 11-minutes over the first of the two categorised climbs.
Deceuninck-Quick Step took over from Total Direct Energie. Argentine champion Max Richeze and later Yves Lampaert substituted Asgreen in the usual role of bunch driver as the Danish rider was part of the breakaway but they let the deficit exceed 15 minutes
37 kilometres before the end, the first attacks took place in the leading group. Mollema, Gougeard and Politt were the most active. Oss, Asgreen, Gougeard, Izagirre, Scully, Trentin, Van Avermaet, Stake Laengen, Skujins, Périchon and King managed to go clear with 30 kilometres to go.
Just six riders remained on the approach to the climb and as the cooperation faltered, Trentin made his move. The Italian rode away solo before the bottom of the Col de la Sentinelle and quickly opened up a sizeable gap as the chasers looked at each other. Trentin made it over the summit with a 30-second gap and there was no chance of catching the now three-time Tour de France stage winner as he powered to a famous solo victory.
Matteo Trentin: “It was really an emotional finish because I’ve actually only won two races in my career alone, and doing it here in the Tour de France, with this finish line, with this group in front. It was amazing.”
“Chris was a really big help. We spoke to each other and decided he would cover the early attacks and he did cover a lot. Then when that strong move went, I was able to follow and it was the perfect scenario.”
“I tried [to attack] a few times, because there was no collaboration and I knew that if I got maybe a 10-second gap and they start to watch each other, with the legs I have I can finish it off. I was a bit scared with the headwind and the guys behind taking a turn each they could have taken some time, but it wasn’t the case. When I was on top of the climb the only intention was to go full gas, taking as little risk as possible.”