FOIX, France (AP) — After the setback, the fightback.
The day after dropping the Tour de France result in Fabio Aru, Chris Froome and his Group Sky confirmed on Friday they nonetheless have playing cards up their sleeves. On the shortest stage of the 104th Tour, barring the 2 time-trials, Sky introduced Mikel Landa into play — sending Froome’s Spanish teammate racing off forward on a quick and livid Stage 13 that grew to become part-chess, half a check of velocity and endurance over a close-packed succession of three climbs within the Pyrenees.
Finish consequence: Sky has two riders — Froome and Landa — within the high 5. From right here to the July 23 end in Paris, Aru should watch each like a hawk and never let both race off forward of him to be able to hold the famed yellow jersey.
“It is good for us,” Froome mentioned.
At simply 101 kilometers (63 miles), lower than half the gap of a few of this Tour’s longest phases, the up-down, up-down, up-down route by means of the Ariege area of mountain cheeses and peak-perched fortresses delivered precisely what Tour organizers had been hoping for: Full-on racing. They even obtained a cherry on high, with French rider Warren Barguil successful the stage on Bastille Day — the primary tricolor victory on France’s nationwide vacation since David Moncoutie in 2005.
“It is unbelievable,” mentioned Barguil, who has recovered remarkably shortly from a pelvis fracture in a crash in April. “I mentioned earlier than the beginning it could be good if a Frenchman received. It is distinctive.”
The Sunweb crew rider sped into the end in Foix, ignored by its imposing 11th century citadel adorned with a French tricolor of purple, white and blue, as a part of a four-man group that included Landa, two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, and Nairo Quintana, a podium finisher at three earlier Excursions.
Contador accelerated first within the remaining dash, however Barguil reacted instantly and adeptly negotiated the final U-bend on a bridge over the Ariege river, holding off Quintana to the road. Contador positioned third. Testifying to the brevity and relentless racing motion of the stage, Barguil coated the gap in simply 2 1/2 hours, half the time of longer phases with twice as a lot street to cowl.
By ending fourth in that main pack that sped in almost two minutes forward of a chasing group that included the Tour’s high 4 riders total — Aru, Froome, French rider Romain Bardet and Colombian Rigoberto Uran — Landa clawed again invaluable time within the total standings. From seventh total in the beginning of the stage, Landa is fifth, simply 1:09 behind Aru.
The Italian mentioned there will not be a subsequent time that he offers Landa such freedom to flee.
“I knew he would attempt one thing,” he mentioned. “However I couldn’t chase each single assault. From now he will not get a lot room.”
Aru caught to Froome like glue on the stage, displaying a cool head and powerful legs as he rode a lot of the way in which with none teammates, who could not stick with the tempo of their group. When Froome hared away on downhills, Aru shortly adopted in his wheels. With Froome solely six seconds behind him total, the chief of the Astana crew is aware of he cannot afford to let the Briton get away from him. The identical is true with Bardet and Uran, who’re solely 25 seconds and 35 seconds again from the race chief, respectively. The thrillingly tight grouping on the high guarantees vigorous battles between them within the final week of racing.
“It was a brief stage nevertheless it was stuffed with feelings,” Aru mentioned. “There have been assaults, individuals tried to assault me a number of instances however I responded each time. I stayed calm and targeted. I used my expertise.”
Aru suffered the blow of dropping one of many strongest Astana riders, Jakob Fuglsang, through the stage, the final of two within the Pyrenees. The Danish rider bravely took the stage begin with fractures in his left wrist and elbow sustained in a crash earlier within the week. Struggling from the outset, he later deserted. His departure means Aru could have much less assist to rely on throughout climbs subsequent week within the Alps, the place he might once more discover himself having to combat off assaults alone.
And having seen its techniques work this time, Sky is already planning its subsequent transfer to place Froome again within the yellow jersey he held for seven days earlier than Aru took it — with Landa because the crew’s new joker.
“He is an actual menace now for the general title in Paris,” Froome mentioned. “It is an excellent card for us to play, particularly when Astana haven’t got the numbers to manage the race.”
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