Aru beats Froome in first mountain stage of Tour
CHAMPAGNEY, FRANCE — Italy’s Fabio Aru accelerated away from three-time champion Chris Froome and other top contenders on the first mountain climb of this year’s Tour de France, winning Stage 5 on Wednesday and showing he could be the man to beat to the finish in Paris.
Froome still rode well enough up the steep ascent to the Planche des Belles Filles ski station to take the overall race lead and its yellow jersey from teammate Geraint Thomas, who couldn’t stay with the leaders on a climb made doubly punishing by searing summer temperatures.
But it was Aru who impressed with his fierce burst of speed that left everyone in his wake with more than 2 kilometres left to climb. Wearing his Italian national champion’s jersey of green, white and red, Aru rose out of his saddle and rocked powerfully from side to side as he ate up the mountain.
“It’s extraordinary for me to win this stage,” said the 26-year-old rider for the Astana team who was devastated to miss the Giro d’Italia with an injured knee this year.
“I’m someone who prefers to maintain a low profile. It’s not necessary to say that I’m extremely happy. A victory in the Tour is something fantastic after difficult months with my injury,” said Aru.
Dan Martin of the Quickstep team was second to the top, surprising Froome with his own burst of speed on a very steep section toward the end.
Froome came in third — made painfully aware by the climb that the Tour could be harder than ever to win this year, and that he can’t afford to let Aru get away again.
“This is going to be the hardestfought battle I’ve had,” he said. “We definitely cannot give Fabio that kind of space again.”
When Aru powered away, lucid enough despite the effort to yell at a roadside spectator who got too close to him and to toss a water bottle at the feet of another, Froome and other top contenders didn’t react.
“When he left, I stayed with my team and waited for the attack from the others,” Froome said.
“But no one moved. I thought, ‘OK, I have to go, what can I do?’”
Although Froome subsequently upped his tempo, leaving his teammate Thomas behind, it was already too late: Aru was gone.