The second rest day arrives just in time for “gorilla” Andre Greipel to recharge following his third win du jour of the Tour in stage 15, while Peter Sagan is forced to rest with that same old number after the historically dangerous descent of the Col de Manse takes him to the line of stage 16 in– you got it– second. That’s now five #2 finishes for the points-leading “green machine.”
Then come the Alps, along with further losses to the overall field. As American Tejay Van Garderen had been sitting in third place overall, on stage 17 he meets an illness-induced end before reaching this Tour’s highest elevation point on the Col d’Allos. Meanwhile, other-American Andrew Talansky (of only three in this Tour) notably finishes the day in second with a GC 12th place. A French 1-2 closes stage 18 in Saint-Jean-de-Maurine, as Romain Bardet takes his first-ever Tour de France stage win, with Pierre Roland shortly behind. The GC standings and Froome’s longstanding 3:10 lead still don’t change, that is until the following day. Defending champ Vincenzo Nibali, nearly written off in the first week, proves he’s back by attacking on the Col de la Croix-de-Fer, winning stage 19, and moving himself up to fourth place overall, while second place Nairo Quintana pulls ahead to narrow the gap on le maillot jaune by 32 seconds.
This feeds into the penultimate finish atop Alpe d’Huez, at the end of a final climb long predicted to shake up the Tour even further. A great day it proves for the French, as Thibaut Pinot ascends to a remarkable stage 20 victory, holding off the young Colombian in white who crosses the line in second while erasing another big chunk off that GC gap. As such, to keep it interesting if not exactly shaken up, Chris Froome begins the Tour’s last day with a lead of 1:12, down from 2:38, down from 3:10, certainly a humbled presumed winner.
As always, it all comes down to Paris. The champagne soon again shall flow!