Bardet takes stage 12 as Aru snatches Yellow
Sky Train delivers Froome to the front, but he cracks in the final kilometre
Today's stage to the ski station at Peyragudes was possibly one of the most hotly contested stage finishes in the Tour so far. After the multiple crashes and abandonments and disqualifications that plagued the first week, today's stage 12, blew in like a hurricane.
The start of the stage saw ten riders including; Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Stefan Küng (BMC), Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) among others, get a gap of more than five minutes in fromnt of the peloton.
But it wasn't until the hardest climb of the day, the Port de Bales, that the action started as Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Warren Berguil (Sunweb) attacked the semingly impregnable Sky Train.
In the breakaway, Thomas De Gent and Steven Cummings (Dimension Data) attacked with De Gendt dropping back leaving Cummings to attempt a solo stage win. Cummings desperately tried to keep the Sky Train at bay, holding onto a 2 minute gap.
Back in the yellow jersey group, the Sky Train had shred most of the peloton with around 12 riders containing Contador, Quintana, Bardet, Aru, Uran, Bennet, Martin, Yates and Meintjes hanging onto Sky's coat tails.
With around 10 kilometres to go Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) overcooked a bend that saw Fabio Aru (Astana) and Chris Froome (Sky) nearly crash and fight to get back into the race.
As Cummings pushed on alone, it was Nairo Quintana who the first favorite to be dropped from the yellow jersey group, not long after that it was Alberto Contador's turn.
As the Sky Train increased it's pace, the Dimension Data rider Cumming's couldn't keep a high pace any longer and was caught by what was left of the the Yellow Jersey group.
In the final kilometre, it was Tour of California winner George Bennett who launched the first attack but was reeled back by Froome's leutenant Mikel Landa.
Fabio Aru counter attacked and everyone followed, with Uran and Bardet the closest behind, with Froome struggling.
But in the final hundred metres it was Frenchmen Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) who proved to have the legs and he crossed line ahead of Uran and Aru.
With Froome distanced and a gap opening up, Fabio Aru took the Yellow Jersey from Froome, who is now 6 seconds behind the Italian.
Tomorrow's shorter stage 13 could produce some more animated racing in the mountains of the Pyrenees, so tune in and zone out!
Froome Reacts - The Race is Really On
Team Sky led the entire stage but at the end saw Froome struggling to get to the finish line. "It was certainly a tough day for me in the final," said the rider at the end of the stage."
"My team-mates did such an amazing job today, but I didn’t have the legs at the end to finish it off. Simple as that. No excuses. I just didn’t have the legs on the final kick."
The day featured the Hors Category climb of the Port de Bales and the final climb up to the Ski Station, which proved to be hard for the three-times winner of the race. "It was brutal - ramps of over 20%. That’s a really, really hard finish.
"I can only say congratulations to Romain Bardet for winning the stage and Fabio Aru for taking the yellow jersey. The race is certainly on now."
2017 Tour de France Stage 12 Top Ten Results
1 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 5:49:38
2 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:02
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team
4 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky 0:00:05
5 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:07
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:13
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:22
8 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:00:27
9 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott
10 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:28
2017 Tour de France GC after Stage 12
1 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 52:51:49
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:06
3 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:25
4 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:55
5 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:01:41
6 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:02:13
7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky 0:02:55
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:04:01
9 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:04:24
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates 0:04:51