AG2R’s Romain Bardet won Stage 12 of the 2017 Tour de France – the first day in the Pyrenees – in a GC battle which saw Fabio Aru move into the yellow jersey
Bardet’s attack was enough to distance his competitors as he took the stage with Aru’s initial attack from the GC group effectively dropping Froome as his rivals went up the road. This is the first real sign of weakness the defending Champion has shown and it will be encouraging to his rivals to see that he can be beaten.
The stage was built for a GC battle, with several climbs in the last 40km including the HC Port de Bales, the Col de Peyresourde (Cat1) and the summit finish on the Peyragudes (Cat2).
Despite the stage being destined for GC without the hope of breakaway success, there were still several attacks right at the start of the stage, with a group of 12 riders eventually getting away from the peloton who were happy to let them go and conserve some energy for the climbs at the end of the stage.
The 12 leaders were Steve Cummings, Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Jack Bauer and Marcel Kittel (QuickStep), Cyril Gautier (AG2R), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Diego Ulissi (UAE), Stefan Kung (BMC), Nils Politt (Katusha), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo) and Julien Simon (Cofidis).
After 50km of racing the gap was out to 3’09” as they approached the first climb of the day – the Cote de Capvern (Cat4). De Gendt took the solitary mountain point and the break increased it’s pace as it neared the intermediate sprint in Loures-Barousse. Both Kittel and Matthews had tactically got into the break to contest for the points as leader and second respectively in the competition, but it was Matthews who took the full 20 points with Kittel taking the 15 for second. All that effort had sent the lead out to 5’37” as Team Sky controlled the peloton to try and keep the gap controllable.
After the sprint came the next climb at the Col des Ares (Cat2) and De Gendt took full points on the summit to give him 5 more in the KOM competition, although he is still a long way behind the leader Warren Barguil so won’t be challenging Frenchman. At the foot of the Col de Mente (Cat1) the break’s lead was 6’10” to the peloton and Kittel began to drop back, his sprinters pedigree not helping him in the mountains. Matthews, on the other hand, was looking good and took the full 10 points at the top of the climb, followed by De Gendt.
The Col de Mente also had an effect on the chasing peloton which began to shed riders including most of the sprinters and their teammates. The pace being set at the front didn’t help as Team Sky were still dominant with AG2R and Astana contributing riders to the chase, the gap dropping to just under 5′ with 74km remaining.
The valley road between the Col de Mente and the next climb – the HC Port de Bales – gave the peloton a chance to bring the gap down and at 50km to ride the gap was just under 4′ as the leaders hit the foothills of the climb. Accelerations and the gradient did for Matthews who dropped off as Kung increased the tempo, stretching out the breakaway on the climb.
Fortuneo-Oscaro, sore from missing out on the breakaway, sent Maxime Bouet and Brice Feillu on the attack to try and bridge up to the leaders; Bouet was unable to maintain the pace and dropped back but Feillu eventually caught Ulissi and others who had dropped from the break as their lead fell to just 3’12”.
With 5km to the summit, De Gendt attacked and managed to get away although Steve Cummings was able to follow in pursuit. That attack put an end to Feillu’s attempt to bridge and he dropped back to the peloton. Cummings attacked De Gendt and was able to get a gap immediately and take full points at the top with De Gendt and Gautier taking second and third.
At the top of the climb with 30km remaining Cummings had a lead of 1′ over DE Gendt and Gautier, who had 1′ on the chasing peloton which was still being controlled by Team Sky.
Cummings managed to stay away on the descent and with 10km to go his advantage was 1’22” on the peloton as he began the climb of the Col de Peyresourde (Cat1). The GC riders had thinned out the peloton and were now just down to themselves and several key domestiques as Nairo Quintana dropped off the back at the start of the climb.
Quintana quickly lost 1’15” on the GC but he was able to stem the flow at that time as he tried to limit his losses whilst Contador struggled to stay in touch with the leaders also. With just 4km to go to the top of the climb Cummings was caught and immediately dropped and the GC riders began to start watching each other for any late attacks.
None were forthcoming though and the riders began the short descent before the final climb up to Peyragudes. At the foot of the climb Team Sky’s Mikel Nieve set a fast pace but was unable to maintain it and before long it was down to Mikel Landa to take over for Froome with just 1.7km to go.
George Bennett attacked but was quickly caught again by Landa’s pace, but this prompted Aru to attack with Froome responding along with Bardet and Uran. With a few hundred metres to go Bardet attacked Aru to take the stage win, with Froome coming in 22″ back behind Martin, Louis Meintjes (UAE) and Uran.
Tour de France 2017 Stage 12: Pau>Peyragudes 214.5km
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Romain Bardet (AG2R – Fra)||5:49:38″|
|2||Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac – Col)||+2″|
|3||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||s.t.|
|4||Mikel Landa (Team Sky – Spa)||+5″|
|5||Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data – RSA)||+7″|
|6||Dan Martin (QuickStep – Ire)||+13″|
|7||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||+22″|
|8||George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo – NZl)||+27″|
|9||Simon Yates (Orica-Scott – GBr)||s.t.|
|10||Mikel Nieve (Team Sky – Spa)||+1’28”|
|Position||Name (Team – Nationality)||Time|
|1||Fabio Aru (Astana – Ita)||52:51:49″|
|2||Chris Froome (Team Sky – GBr)||+6″|
|3||Romain Bardet (AG2R – Fra)||+25″|
|4||Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac – Col)||+35″|
|5||Dan Martin (QuickStep – Ire)||+1’41”|
|6||Simon Yates (Orica-Scott – GBr)||+2’13”|
|7||Mikel Landa (Team Sky – Spa)||+2’55”|
|8||Nairo Quintana (Movistar – Col)||+4’01”|
|9||George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo – NZl)||+4’04”|
|10||Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data – RSA)||+4’51″|