Aru beats Froome in first moun­tain stage of Tour

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JOHN LE­ICES­TER AND AN­DREW DAMPF

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.

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