PEYRAGUDES, France (AP) — For his three earlier victories on the Tour de France, Chris Froome took benefit of the primary large mountain stage to ship the decisive blow.
On Thursday, that attempted and trusted technique by no means received going, and he surrendered the general race result in Fabio Aru.
With its mountain prime end, the massively demanding first stage within the Pyrenees appeared like the right setting for his Sky Group to stamp its authority on the race, and to assist Froome enhance his lead within the normal classification.
Till the ultimate 350 meters of the 214.5-kilometer (133 miles) marathon by six grueling ascents within the Pyrenees, the well-oiled Sky machine had every thing beneath management.
Froome’s teammates had set a quick tempo that prevented others from attacking – a tactic that ready the bottom for Froome’s anticipated assault within the steep ultimate part resulting in the end within the ski station of Peyragudes.
Froome’s transfer by no means got here.
Not solely was he unable to assault, the British rider additionally cracked throughout the climb. Frenchman Romain Bardet gained Stage 12 forward of Rigoberto Uran and Aru, who seized the lead from Froome by six seconds.
Bardet is third general, 25 seconds off the tempo. Uran was handed a 20-second penalty for accepting a water bottle within the final 5 kilometers, which isn’t allowed, and lies in fourth place general, 55 seconds again.
“My teammates did such an incredible job,” Froome mentioned. “I did not have the legs on the finish to complete it off. Easy as that. No excuses.”
When Aru launched his assault within the ultimate few hundred meters, Froome was solely in a position to observe the Astana staff chief for a couple of bike lengths earlier than he cracked. He ended up crossing the road in seventh place, 22 seconds behind Bardet.
Bidding to change into the primary Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985, Bardet was the strongest within the brutal incline and described his third stage win on the Tour as “an immense pleasure.”
He mentioned he had visited the ski station together with his mother and father to scout out the ultimate climb.
“I knew it might swimsuit me,” he mentioned. “I used to be affected person. I made the distinction on the ultimate hill. There was not a lot to do earlier than that with the wind and the Sky practice.”
Aru had trailed Froome by 18 seconds initially of the stage.
“It is one of the lovely issues that may occur to you in life, carrying the yellow jersey,” mentioned Aru. “Clearly, it will not be simple to defend it. There are nonetheless 9 extra phases, we’ll do our greatest.”
The ultimate of the six ascents on the menu of the 214.5 kilometers (133 miles) stage between Pau and the ski station was too tough for Froome, who had worn the yellow jersey over the earlier seven phases.
He was grimacing with the trouble, his arms glistening with sweat, as he wrestled his bike up the super-steep climb that was used a location for the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow By no means Dies.”
Froome zig-zagged his bike throughout the tarmac as he tried to deal with a gradient so steep that it appeared to connect his wheels to the highway.
The one yellow merchandise he wore after the end was the small ring in his nostril to assist him breathe.
“I did my utmost on the finish. However I did not have the legs to observe,” he mentioned.
Froome has just a few hours to bounce again earlier than Friday’s brief however exhausting stage to Foix, which options three Class 1 climbs — the second-hardest problem score. Now that Froome has proven indicators of weak point, the assaults might come proper from the beginning as his rivals look to construct on the momentum.
“Aru attacked a bit too early to win the stage, however he received the jersey and noticed that Froome may be overwhelmed. He’ll positively attempt some extra,” Astana supervisor Alexandre Vinokourov mentioned. “Sky could be very robust, however at the moment Froome took a success and his staff may very well be demoralized. Let’s hope our guys discover extra motivation.”
Rain was falling because the peloton began the stage in Pau, earlier than a breakaway of 12 riders gained a lead of greater than six minutes on some pretty flat sections of the course.
Froome’s teammates rode on the entrance with Aru’s squad simply behind, however confirmed no real interest in lowering the hole with the breakaways.
Sky stepped up the tempo within the first actually tough ascent, the Col de Mente, the place Spanish nice Luis Ocana crashed out in a downhill part in 1971 whereas carrying the yellow jersey. The twisting and punishing Port de Bales, a slim, 11.7-kilometer climb at a mean gradient of seven.7 % – rated as ‘past a class’ due to its problem – took a heavy toll on the lead riders. The breakaway group cut up up as Stephen Cummings launched a solo offensive.
Aru’s teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who broke two bones in a crash throughout Wednesday’s stage, struggled on the again and dropped out of rivalry after beginning the day in fifth place general.
Cummings had a two-minute lead on the prime of Port de Bales and went all out within the descent because the fog broke and the climate picked up. Froome, Aru and Mikel Nieve misjudged a flip within the downhill however the race chief and his rival pushed exhausting on the brakes to keep away from a crash. Nieve went straight onto the grass between lorries and tenting caravans.
It was nothing greater than a scare for Froome, who had three teammates by his aspect to sort out the 2 ultimate climbs, the Peyresourde and the Peyragudes ascent.
Nairo Quintana was dropped within the Peyresourde and, with no teammate to convey him again, noticed his hopes of profitable the Tour vanish. Cummings was then caught with eight kilometers left, lining up a dramatic finale.
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