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Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Romain BARDET (France / Team AG2R La Mondiale) - Rigoberto URAN URAN (Columbia / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) - Fabio ARU (Italy / Team Astana) pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Le Tour’17 St12: Bardet’s Big Day!

Race Report: It should have been one of the big stages of the race, in truth, nothing really happened until 500m to go when the entire race was flipped on its head and Fabio Aru came out holding yellow. Romain Bardet boosted French pride with a mountain stage win and strengthened his podium aspirations.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Romain BARDET (France / Team AG2R La Mondiale) - Rigoberto URAN URAN (Columbia / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) - Fabio ARU (Italy / Team Astana)  pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

In a race run in changeable weather, the opening flat 100km were enticing for a breakaway and one duly formed. Both Marcel Kittel and Michael Matthews were involved as they continued their phony war for the green jersey, barring injury or finishing outside of the time limit, the German will take the jersey in Paris. The pair of sprinters fell away swiftly once the real climbing struck and it was left to Thomas De Gendt and Stephen Cummings to spread their wings and go clear. The Brit was the strongest of the leading group and he was alone in the lead until 8km to go when he was swallowed up by the GC group.

For 99% of the stage, nothing happened in the GC battle, but when George Bennett launched a speculative attack inside the final few hundred meters he sparked a battle which would end with Romain Bardet taking the stage win, Fabio Aru snatching second, and Chris Froome cracking and losing time and the yellow jersey to the Italian. What’s even worse for Sky is that they have shown a weakness and expect the other teams to stick the knife in constantly. No one team is anywhere near as strong as Sky’s henchmen, so expect to see some kind of alliance.

After a couple of flat stages through the south west of France, we’re back in the mountains of the Pyrenees. It’s yet another 200km+ stage, 214km, the seventh of the race and will take the riders from the previous stage finish in Pau to the summit of the Peyragudes ski station. For the first 100km, you’d be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t a mountain stage at all, during that time the peloton only have the Cote de Capvern (7.7km @ 3.1%) to navigate. It all kicks off in the finale however as the peloton will first deal with the second category Col des Ares (7.4km @ 4.6%) and the first category Col de Mente (6.9km @ 8.1%) before the hugely testing finale. The one two punch of the 11.7km @ 7.7% Port de Bales and the 9.6km @ 7.8% Col de Peyresourde is brutal and the final second category climb to Peyragudes (2.4km @ 8.4%) will finish anyone off who’s not at their best.

There are some ambush style stages over the next few days and the two Alpine stages will obviously provide some opportunities for the GC contenders to strike, but, this is the penultimate mountaintop finish. We’re running dangerously low on places where the GC contenders can take a chisel and hack away at Froome’s grip on the yellow jersey.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - GAUTIER Cyril of AG2R La Mondiale, KITTEL Marcel of Quick-Step Floors pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Out of Place
With so much flat riding before the really difficult mountains kick off, this was a day for a break to form. There was plenty of action early on as Lotto Soudal and Warren Barguil (Sunweb) tried to hitch a lift on the break. It wasn’t to be for the king of mountains jersey wearer and he was left in the peloton as the break of the day formed after around 10km.

They were: Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Jack Bauer & Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo), Stefan Kung (BMC), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Cyril Gautier (AG2R), and, Imanol Erviti (Movistar). Their lead shot out beyond the two minute mark as the GC teams were content to let them build up a lead before the real racing started later on.

The presence of Kittel and Matthews in the break may have been a surprise, but with just a fourth category climb to get over before the intermediate sprint, there were points on the line. Kittel held a 133pt lead over Matthews prior to the stage and he was happy to sit on the Australian’s wheel as Matthews claimed back 5pts before settling back into the break for the mountains that were yet to come.

The weather was pretty changeable at the moment, it’s normally baking hot when the riders are sent into the Pyrenees but they wouldn’t be complaining about a cooler day in the saddle after the hot start to the Tour. However, they would be thinking back to chaos and drama that was caused by wet descents on stage nine.

The break had increased their lead to over six minutes and led comfortably over the opening two climbs although Kittel had inevitably come undone as they took on the lower slopes of the Col de Mente. Thomas De Gendt was sticking around though, he had taken maximum points on the first two climbs and with 50pts to get during the stage, he had a chance to get right back into the overall jersey competition. He had won on stage 12 last year, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that, that was also the day that Froome ended up running up Mount Ventoux.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Michael James MATTHEWS (Australia / Team Sunweb)  pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Matthews on Mente
De Gendt was looking like the strongest rider in the break, but he was also a risk to Michael Matthews’ team mate, Barguil, in the king of the mountains competition. With De Gendt striding out to claim the maximum points, Matthews clipped around him to deprive him of the two climbing points he could have got. With three categorized climbs to go, it was all calm in both the break and the peloton as they began the descent on the dry roads which had now emerged.

The valley road between the Mente and the Port de Bales was proving difficult terrain for the break and their lead was now reduced to just four minutes as Sky continued to ramp up the pace. The loss was stemmed and the break were able to supplement their lead as they began the long slog towards the summit of the Port de Bales.

There was an early attack from the peloton as Brice Feillu and Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro) took flight. Feillu was sitting in 20th position overall, just under 12 minutes behind and had the opportunity to hop up the overall standings with some healthy time gains on this stage. The duo very quickly gained over a minute on the Sky led peloton and they were closing on the break who were now one man down, after Matthews had gone into reverse on the lower slopes of the Port de Bales.

Stefan Kung was keen to push on and his acceleration enticed five others out of the break as Cyril Gautier, Thomas De Gendt, Jack Bauer, Julien Simon and Steve Cummings joined the Swiss rider in the lead. The gap was shrinking as Sky continued to crank up the pace to diminish what was quite a large yellow jersey group.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Thomas DE GENDT (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal)   pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Thomas De Gendt was the next man to push on out of the break and he was only joined by Steve Cummings. The Brit had been slow to react when Stefan Kung went clear but the Dimension Data rider was now in full flow and he dropped the Belgian and forged on alone as they powered towards the top of the climb. It looked like he had the beating of the breakaway, but the gap to Froome was now just two minutes.

Back in the yellow jersey group, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) had had a poor Tour to date but he clipped off the front in the latter half of the Port de Bales. It wasn’t to be though for the Spaniard and he was quickly brought back by the Froome group who were continually upping the pace. Cummings made it over in the lead and he had two minutes of an advantage as he flew down the long descent to the foot of the Col de Peyresourde.

The roads were dry on this side of the mountain but it didn’t mean there wasn’t drama, Cyril Gautier overshot a bend and came crash down on the, thankfully, soft mud. That left just the leader, Thomas De Gendt and Warren Barguil in the lead, Barguil had mopped up the points for fourth place at the top of the climb.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Stephen CUMMINGS (GBR / Team Dimension Data) pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Up Peyresourde
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) had crashed during the stage yesterday and ended up with broken bones in his left arm. He’d looked good earlier in the stage but had fallen behind badly on the Bales and was now way down. Another blow for Fabio Aru’s hopes of upsetting Froome.

Cummings had lost around 30 seconds on the descent, but as the road flattened he had plumped up his advantage and it was now back out to two minutes as he continued descending to the foot of the penultimate climb.

Cummings had added to his lead even more as he started climbing. He took a long pull on a sticky bottle and then immediately threw it away as he took some free energy. There was drama behind as Chris Froome followed his team mate off the road and into a grassy section where some camper vans had parked up. Fabio Aru was also led astray and although neither of them hit the deck, they were still behind the race. Not to worry, nobody who had stayed upright was willing to punish Froome’s misdemeanor and the pair easily made their way back in.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Warren BARGUIL (France / Team Sunweb) - Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS (Columbia / Team Movistar) pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos © 2017

The slowing pace was great for Cummings who had 11km left to ride but still had a healthy lead over the chasers. In the Froome group, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had enough and was popped off the back as the trio of Sky riders continued their unrelenting march towards the summit of the climb. They were eating away at the lead but Cummings was keeping just over a minute – he really needed the descent to the final climb to come quickly, however.

Of the top ten on GC, only Quintana and Fuglsang had failed to get into the Froome group. Nobody looked keen to launch an attack and they were happy to sit in the slipstream of the White train. Steve Cummings had put in a brave ride but it wasn’t to be as he was caught and then immediately dropped. He’d completely blown and was now in free fall through the field. The fight for GC was also going to be the fight for the stage win.

Peyragudes - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Christopher - Chris FROOME (GBR / Team Sky) - Fabio ARU (Italy / Team Astana) - Romain BARDET (France / Team AG2R La Mondiale)pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, 214.50 km - foto  Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos © 2017

Contador had put in a surprisingly good ride but his tether had been snapped just shy of the top of the penultimate climb and he was blown out the back. The lead group had hit the final climb together and Froome was now down to just one domestique, but with only 1.7km left to ride it was still his advantage. The pace had gone off and it was getting towards a track sprint as Mikel Landa ground up towards the ski resort. It was suiting the likes of Contador and Quintana who were clawing seconds back. The nine leaders were all still together but Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was creeping towards the front as they went under the red kite. Landa was still doing all the work as the group began to crowd Landa. George Bennett (LottoNl-Jumbo) was the first to go but Froome just asked for more speed from Landa and he hauled the Kiwi back. Fabio Aru (Astana) was the next to go and after a false start he was beginning to go away. It was between Aru, Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac). Aru was faltering and Bardet took advantage. It was a brutally hard sprint but the Frenchman was creeping towards the line faster than Uran and Aru. It was enough and he took a cracking stage win at the ski resort – surely now he’ll believe he might actually be able to win this. There was more drama behind as Chris Froome, perched behind his team for the entire day, began to falter on the terribly steep finale. He was falling further behind, if he continued this it would be Aru’s jersey. The Italian had lost just two seconds to Bardet but Froome was going to be further behind than that. Froome was really suffering. Every pedal stroke was bringing him closer to the line but further behind his GC competitors. He eventually hit the line, 22 seconds behind, and 17 behind Landa who had just kept riding on. It was great news for Fabio Aru, who took the yellow jersey, and Romain Bardet who was now just 19 seconds in arrears.

Arrivée / Finish – Étape 12 / Stage 12 – Tour… por tourdefrance

It was a great day for Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet, but they will be wondering why they didn’t hit Froome earlier. Expect some very unpleasant days ahead for the defending champion.

Pau - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport -  Fabio ARU (Italy / Team Astana) pictured during the 104th Tour de France 2017 - stage 11 from Eymet to Pau, 203.50 km  - foto Tim Van Wichelen / Cor Vos © 2017

Keep it PEZ for Ed Hood’s day Roadside, up soon.

Tour de France Stage 12 Result:
1. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale in 5:49:38
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac at 0:02
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
4. Mikel Landa (Spa) Sky at 0:05
5. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 0:07
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors at 0:13
7. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:22
8. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNl-Jumbo at 0:27
9. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-Scott
10. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky at 1:28
11. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2:04
12. Warren Barguil (Fra) Sunweb at 2:08
13. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 2:11
14. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 2:15
15. Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 2:59
16. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 4:20
17. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 4:33
18. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data at 4:36
19. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
20. Brice Feillu (Fra) Team Fortuneo-Oscaro at 4:56
21. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar at 5:22
22. Nathan Brown (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 5:41
23. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 5:44
24. Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 5:57
25. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo at 7:07.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 12:
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana in 52:51:49
2. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:06
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:25
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac at 0:35
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors at 1:41
6. Simon Yates (GB) Orica-Scott at 2:13
7. Mikel Landa (Spa) Sky at 2:55
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 4:01
9. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNl-Jumbo at 4:04
10. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 4:51
11. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 7:14
12. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky at 7:30
13. Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 8:13
14. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 8:53
15. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 12:16
16. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 13:46
17. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 14:14
18. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar at 15:40
19. Warren Barguil (Fra) Sunweb 0:16:03
20. Brice Feillu (Fra) Fortuneo-Oscaro at 16:23
21. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 19:27
22. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 23:01
23. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 29:03
24. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo at 29:56
25. Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 32:10

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