Despite all appearances, Chris Froome hasn't won the 2016 Tour de France yet. He's in prime position to do so, and no one else seems to have the legs to challenge him (See: Bauke Mollema landing in second place), but starting on Stage 17, the Tour enters its final and hardest stretch. To wit: Three pure mountain stages, two of them finishing on mountain tops, and the rare sight of a mountain time trial.
Stage 17 finishes with Category 1 and hors categorie climbs back to back, ending at the border of France in Finhaut-Emosson. There is plenty of good road to attack -- during the first 105 kilometers of steady climbing, the false flat up to the intermediate sprint point and, of course, up to the mountain top finish. If Froome's rivals don't take time back now, there's not much reason to believe they can later on.
Stage 17 will begin at approximately 6:15 a.m. ET beginning in Bern, Switzerland. NBCSN will begin broadcasting the race at 7 a.m. Live streaming via subscription to NBC Sports Gold will begin at 8:10 a.m.
Froome's rivals have made halfhearted attempts at attacking him, though that has something to do with the blistering pace Team Sky is setting at the head of the peloton. Nairo Quintana and Movistar have been particularly disappointing. Quintana couldn't hang with Froome up Mont Ventoux on Stage 12, and is probably lucky that Froome's run-in with a motorbike gave him some readjusted time back.
The Sky train may not be able to protect Froome up Col de la Forclaz and Finhaut-Emosson, however, which are rated as Podium Cafe's fifth- and sixth-hardest climbs of the entire Tour, respectively. If his helpers fall back, Froome will be on his own to defend the desperate, feral onslaught. That's good news for the pack. The bad news is Froome not only appears capable of defending himself, but straight up whupping everyone.
Map and profile courtesy of the Tour's official site.
Tour de France coverage for Stage 17 on Wednesday
Start time: 6:15 a.m. ET (approx.)
Route: 184.5 kilometers from Bern to Finhaut-Emosson, Switzerland
TV: NBCSN, beginning at 7 a.m.
Streaming: NBC Sports Gold (subscription required), beginning at 8:10 a.m.