Froome loses over­all lead

French­man Bardet takes 12th stage; Aru seizes yel­low jersey

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Sa­muel Petrequin and John Le­ices­ter Getty Im­ages

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.”

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