Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen more than made up for his stinging defeat on Tuesday with a fine solo victory yesterday whilst yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler emerged unscathed after a hair-raising skid off-road on a perilous high-speed descent.
Attempting to chase an increasingly aggressive Alberto Contador on a narrow, twisting and badly cambered descent, Voeckler misjudged a sweeping left-hand bend and, after a two-wheeled jump down a further drop, came to rest – miraculously upright – in a paved garden.
Aided back onto the road by the owner – who presumably will be dining out on how he "once had that Thomas Voeckler in my back garden" for some time to come – the Europcar rider managed to regain contact with a chasing group containing double Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso.
Contador, however, was long gone, and the Spaniard, together with the Schleck brothers, Samuel Sanchez, and Cadel Evans, gained nearly 30 seconds on the Frenchman. Voeckler emphasised afterwards that he could not be disappointed, because "I'm lucky not to be in an ambulance."
"When I realised I wasn't going to get round the corner, I realised I would have to jump and then I almost closed my eyes. I opened them again, saw I was still in one piece, saw the race was still going on and got back into it."
After almost crashing once, Voeckler said it had been his fault he had spun off the road – in a carbon copy of a skid into the same garden by Frenchman Jonathan Hivert a few minutes before – because he had been riding too fast.
"I knew I had to be in front, I had to go down that climb like a mad dog to keep in contact. When I made that mistake, it was very difficult to continue. Besides, mountain biking isn't my speciality."
Successfully on the attack for the second day running, Contador was delighted at a return to form in the nick of time for today's crucial assault on the Galibier. "It's important to pull back time every single day," the Spaniard said. "Voeckler's a great rider and I can't let any opportunities go by."
Boasson Hagen and Sky's second stage win of the race was driven by much the same logic, albeit on a different scale, with the Norwegian explaining that "today was my last chance, I knew I had to go for it."
Frustrated when he was outsprinted on Tuesday by compatriot and World Champion Thor Hushovd, the 24-year-old went clear of a 14-rider break close to the summit of the tree-lined Col de Pramartino.
Although the Sky rider's wheels visibly juddered on the worst corners of the downhill, Boasson Hagen was clearly more confident than most – in large part due to Sky's reconnaissance this spring. "Knowing it well was a help, and also losing yesterday [Tuesday] made me stronger," he explained – exactly the philosophy that has driven Sky since Bradley Wiggins abandoned in the first week, and which yesterday once more saw them strike gold.
Stage details and standings
Stage 17 (Gap-Pinerolo, 179km):
1 E Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 4hr 18min
2 B Mollema (Neth) Rabobank Cycling Team at 0.40sec
3 S Casar (Fr) FDJ at 0.50
4 J El Fares (Fr) Cofidis, Le Crédit En Ligne at same time
5 S Chavanel (Fr) Quickstep Cycling Team at same time
6 D Fofonov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana at 1.10
7 M Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale at same time
8 D Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioShack at same time
9 J Hivert (Fr) Saur-Sojasun at 1.15
10 B Bozic (Sloven) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team at 2.20
70 G Thomas (GB) Sky Procycling at 4hr 30min 36sec
154 B Swift (GB) Sky Procycling at 14min 15sec
165 D Millar (GB) Team Garmin-Cervelo at same time
166 M Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at same time
1 T Voeckler (Fr) Team Europcar 73hr 23min 49sec.
2 C Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 01min 18sec.
3 F Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek at 01.22.
4 A Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek at 02.36.
5 S Sanchez Gonzalez (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadiat 02.59.
6 A Contador (Sp) Saxo Bank Sungard at 03.15.
7 D Cunego (It) Lampre - ISD at 03.34.
8 I Basso (It) Liquigas-Cannondale at 03.49.
9 T Danielson (US) Team Garmin-Cervelo at 06.04.
10 R Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling at 07.36.
King of the Mountains 1 J Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 74; 2 S Sanchez 72; 3 J Roy (FDJ) 45; 4 S Chavanel (Quick Step) 38; 5 A Schleck 28.
Green Jersey 1 M Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 320; 2 J Rojas (Movistar) 285; 3 P Gilbert (Omega) 250; 4 T Hushovd (Garmin) 235; 5 EB Hagen (Sky) 173.