Froome loses overall lead
Frenchman Bardet takes 12th stage; Aru seizes yellow jersey
The Associated Press
PEYRAGUDES, FRANCE» For his three previous victories at the Tour de France, Chris Froome took advantage of the first big mountain stage to deliver the decisive blow.
On Thursday, that tried and trusted strategy never got going, and he surrendered the overall race lead to Fabio Aru.
With its mountain top finish, the hugely demanding first stage in the Pyrenees looked like the perfect setting for his Sky Team to stamp its authority on the race, and to help Froome increase his lead in the general classification.
Until the final 350 meters of the 214.5kilometer (133 miles) marathon through six grueling ascents in the Pyrenees, the welloiled Sky machine had everything under control.
Froome’s teammates had set a fast tempo that prevented others from attacking — a tactic that prepared the ground for Froome’s expected assault in the steep final section leading to the finish in the ski station of Peyragudes.
Froome’s move never came.
Not only was he unable to attack, the British rider also cracked during the climb. Frenchman Romain Bardet won Stage 12 ahead of Rigoberto Uran and Aru, who seized the lead from Froome by six seconds.
Bardet is third overall, 25 seconds off the pace. Uran was handed a 20-second penalty for accepting a water bottle in the last five kilometers, which is not allowed, and lies in fourth place overall, 55 seconds back.
“My teammates did such an amazing job,” Froome said. “I didn’t have the legs at the end to finish it off. Simple as that. No excuses.”
When Aru launched his attack in the final few hundred meters, Froome was only able to follow the Astana team leader for a few bike lengths before he cracked. He ended up crossing the line in seventh place, 22 seconds behind Bardet.
Bidding to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985, Bardet was the strongest in the brutal incline and described his third stage win on the Tour as “an immense joy.”
He said he had visited the ski station with his parents to scout out the final climb.
“I knew it could suit me,” he said. “I was patient. I made the difference on the final hill. There was not much to do before that with the wind and the Sky train.”