March 18, 2018

Froome's failure on final slope sets stage for thrilling Tour finale

15 July 2017, 02:52 | Joan Schultz

Chris Froome held a slim lead entering Thursday's stage 12 at the Tour de France

Chris Froome held a slim lead entering Thursday's stage 12 at the Tour de France

Although it looks relatively flat - certainly after the mountain stages - for the most part, numerous little valleys are likely to drain the energy from riders' legs before what looks set to be a granstand finish at Côte Saint-Pierre.

According to Chris Marshall-Bell at Cycling Weekly, Froome has a chance of victory, but it is Bardet who could yet scoop his second stage win in a row, due to his brilliance at descending.

"It's a good sign (that the Tour is not over yet) but it was just two hundred metres and I would not think too much about it", LeMond, who is on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said in his daily chat with Reuters on Thursday.

Team Sky did not regain the overall lead, but they have piled on the pressure on the other Tour contenders with a strategic long-distance attack by Froome's team-mate Mikel Landa, whilst Froome stayed behind in the group containing yellow jersey Fabio Aru.

Froome has only a few hours to bounce back before Friday's short but hard stage to Foix, which features three Category 1 climbs - the second-hardest difficulty rating.

He congratulated Bardet "for his lovely win", and also Aru.

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'I didn't have the legs [at the end] but there's still a long way to go. The first stage of the tournament was won by Geriant Thomas (Team Sky), as he delivered a stunning performance, covering 14km track in a time of 16:04 to grab the yellow jersey. Instead, Froome struggled badly as first Aru, resplendent in the green, white and red of Italian national champion and then Bardet charged away.

But Sky said yesterday they were baffled by Froome's loss of race form.

Only once before had he given up the yellow jersey, and that for just three days in 2015 to German Tony Martin, who wasn't an overall threat anyway.

While Sky unfurled its tactical plan, Aru suffered the blow of losing one of the strongest riders on his Astana team, Jakob Fuglsang, during the stage, the last of two in the Pyrenees.

Aru took over the race lead by six seconds. Rivals might feel more deputized to take shots at Froome over the back nine of this Tour, especially with a time trial looming on the penultimate day. There was no question about his victory Friday - the Frenchman and current King of the Mountains sprinted to the line to win Stage 13 of the Tour de France.

"It's one of the best things that can happen in life to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France", said a beaming Aru.

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