We had to wait for the final sprint to the line in Peyragudes for today’s denouement. Fabio Aru accelerated with around 300 metres to go, immediately putting Chris Froome under pressure, only for the Italian to be overhauled in the final 50 metres by Romain Bardet and runner-up Rigoberto Uran. For the first time in this race, Froome struggled with the pace, finally coming in seventh, 22 seconds back on Bardet, while Aru claimed third plus four bonus seconds to move into the yellow jersey by six seconds.
Rider of the Race
Who to choose? Stage winner Romain Bardet or maillot jaune Fabio Aru? I’m going with Bedhead™ Bardet because we’ve already bestowed this honour on the Italian national champion on stage 5.
This was Bardet’s third consecutive tour stage victory and his post-race comments demonstrated how much more confidence and self-belief he has following last year’s second place overall. He said he’d done a reconnaissance of the final climb back in May, before it had even been asphalted, and knew it would suit him.
I had good legs, and I just had to be patient. I dug deep, there was still plenty to climb. The final metres made all the difference, there wasn’t much I could do before. There’s still three major stages. I don’t have a master plan. I’ll take seconds wherever I can. Nothing’s impossible!
GC shaken rather than stirred
Ahead of today’s stage, Froome, who was leading the race by 18 seconds from Aru, said the overall contenders faced a daunting task. You may recall five years ago, Froome finished second to Spain’s Alejandro Valverde on the stage 17 finish at Peyragudes, a stage which Froome believed he would have won had he not been ordered to wait for his then-team leader Bradley Wiggins. However, he conceded:
It’s a bit different to 2012 this time. The finish is on an airstrip, an uphill airstrip with an over 20 percent gradient. It’s savage! If someone blows over those last few hundred metres, there could be some significant time gaps.
Froome’s problems in the finale were surprising given the seeming ease with which his Skybots had dictated the pace throughout the stage. Michal Kwiatkowski and Mikel Nieve tapped out a punishing tempo on the Col de Peyresourde that reduced the yellow jersey group to just nine riders and put paid to the respective challenges of Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana. Then Mikel Landa set a metronomic pace on the final kick up to Peyragudes, but once it was up to Froome, he couldn’t match the accelerations of Aru and Bardet.
News coming through that Rigoberto Uran and George Bennett have each been handed a 20-second penalty by UCI jury for taking a bottle in last 10km – considering Uran’s position in the top 10, that’s has to hurt. Allegedly, there’s a video showing Romain Bardet taking a bottle as well, but not penalised. So far, the only reason we can ascertain (besides the fact that Bardet is French) is that Bardet didn’t take a drink and threw the bottle away almost immediately. Then there’s another school of thought that if you take it from a spectator and not a staff member, that’s okay. (But Vaughters says that’s not true.) Just one more controversy to add to all the others!
Top 5 stage
1 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) 5:49:38
2 Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) +0:02
3 Fabio Aru (Astana) same time
4 Mikel Landa (Sky) +0:05
5 Louis Meintjes (UAE Emirates) +0:07
Top 5 GC
1 Fabio Aru (Astana) 52:51:49
2 Chris Froome (Sky) +0:06
3 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:25
4 Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) +0:55
5 Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) +1:41
All the jerseys
Leader: Fabio Aru (Astana)
Points: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM: Warren Barguil (Sunweb)
Best Young Rider: Simon Yates (Orica-Scott)
Team Classification: Sky
Most Aggressive Rider: Stephen Cummings(Dimension Data)
Header image: Romain Bardet winner stage 12 Tour de France 2017 ASO/Pauline Ballet