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 of Team Sky 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 2.4km ascent at a punishing average gradient of 8.4 per cent. But Bardet had more left in the tank and powered away in the last 200m to beat Colombian Rigoberto Uran by two seconds.
Aru was third, also two seconds behind Bardet, while Froome cracked and ended up 22 seconds adrift of the Frenchman.
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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 have never been so strong, we are a real factor in the race."
Froome and Aru went off the road 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.
Nairo Quintana had already been dropped as the Colombian struggled to recover from the Giro d'Italia. He and two-time champion Alberto Contador, who was dropped in the finale, saw their hopes of winning all but vanish.
For the second time after Aru prevailed at the top of La Planche des Belles Filles last week, Froome was beaten in a summit finish. "I didn't have the legs," he said.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 13: Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, 8.45pm