Aru pounces while Froome falters
PEYRAGUDES, France: Frenchman Romain Bardet timed his final effort perfectly to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France yesterday, setting up a thrilling second half of the three-week race as defending champion Chris Froome showed a rare sign of weakness.
Italian Fabio Aru claimed the overall leader’s yellow jersey as previous leader Froome could not sustain the pace in the final few hundred metres up a steep climb to the finish line.
Astana rider Aru attacked in the final part of the climb to Peyragudes, a 2.4-km ascent at a punishing average gradient of 8.4 percent. But Bardet had more left in the tank and powered away in the last 200 metres to beat Colombian Rigoberto Uran by two seconds.
Aru came third, also two seconds behind Bardet, while Froome cracked and ended up 22 seconds adrift of the Frenchman.
Overall, Aru leads Froome by six seconds and Bardet by 25.
“It’s a great joy. I had good legs but I was patient,” said AG2R-La Mondiale rider Bardet.
“The team has never been so strong, we are a real factor in the race. Now we have to do our best in the final part.”
Froome and Aru went off the road briefly in the descent from the Port de Bales, the penultimate climb of the day, but the group of overall contenders waited on them.
They caught the last survivor of the day’s breakaway, Briton Stephen Cummings, 8.5km from the finish, in the final slopes of the Col de Peyresourde.
Nairo Quintana had already been dropped, as the Colombian struggles to recover from an energy-sapping Giro d’Italia.
He and two-time champion Contador, who was dropped in the finale, saw their hopes of winning the race all but vanish.
OVER THE HILL, AND NOT SO FAR AWAY: Romain Bardet of France sprints towards the line to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France yesterday. He timed his break to perfection to win by two seconds.