Bardet Wins Stage 12 of Tour de France
Today's menu offered the Tour de France peloton a challenging and mountainous 214.5 kilometer route from Pau to Peyragudes that included no less than six categorized climbs. Today's big mountain stage in the Pyrenees was intended to be one of the most challenging stages of this year's Tour de France. However, the route only included a single Hors Categorie climb and the stage profile did not scare a relatively large breakaway group that formed early in the stage.
The twelve riders in the breakaway were Jack Bauer and Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors Team), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Stefan Küng (BMC Racing Team), Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo), Cyril Gautier (AG2R La Mondiale), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), and Julien Simon (Cofidis).
The twelve breakaway companions worked well together and Matthews won the intermediate sprint ahead of Kittel and gained important points for the points classification. When the riders reached the hardest climbs of the day, the group started to disintegrate and ultimately only Cummings and De Gendt remained at the front.
With three kilometers to the top of Port de Balès, a strong Cummings decided to go solo. The British national champion dropped De Gendt and took on a courageous battle against the peloton in the difficult mountainous terrain.
As Cummings started on the penultimate climb of the day, Col du Peyresourde, he had a 2 minute and 10 seconds lead on the group of favorites that were chasing behind. However, as Team Sky increased the pace strongly led by Michal Kwiatkowski and Vasili Kiryienka and the gradients increased even further, the gap was minimized. Cummings fought courageously, but with 8.5 km to go he was caught by the chasing group of general classification favorites.
In a vicious sprint towards the finish line at the top of the final climb Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) proved the strongest man of the day and thus won the stage ahead of Rigoberto Uran of Team Cannondale - Drapac and Astana's Fabio Aru. Defending Tour de France Champion Chris Froome of Team Sky Pro Cycling lost valuable time in today's stage as he faltered in the final kilometers of the final climb after having taken a wrong turn in the last descent and paid two caravan vehicles a much too close and sudden visit. Froome, therefore, had to hand over the yellow race leader's jersey to Aru.
Aru now leads the Tour de France by six seconds over Froome following today's stage. Bardet is in third place, 25 seconds behind. Uran is 55 seconds behind Aru and Daniel Martin closes out the top 5. Team Cannondale's Uran and George Bennett (Team Lotto NL-Jumbo) were both handed a time penalty of 20 seconds for receiving a bottle of water from spectators within the final ten kilometers of the stage. Bardet did the same, but was not penalized.
Had the general classification contenders possessed sufficient courage to attack Froome sooner in today's stage, Froome would likely have lost significant time in today's stage. Viewers and spectators are, however, witnessing the same pattern of gutless riding by GC contenders, who are too eager to protect their own mediocre second-rate GC placings, at the cost of securing the top position on the final Tour de France podium in Paris they could so easily have gained with a bit of bravery and courage.
Challenging teams have become too afraid of Team Sky like they were of Team US Postal Service and Team Discovery Channel some years ago. Therefore, expect Froome to take the overall Tour victory again this year, before being replaced by Geraint Thomas as the team's top Tour de France contender for future seasons.
Friday's Stage 13 of the 2017 Tour de France takes place on France's Bastille Day. The day of big celebrations across the country will offer Frenchmen the opportunity to enjoy riders as they compete on a 101 kilometer route from Saint-Girons to Foix. The route features three category one climbs. Expect the French riders to do everything in their power to secure a well-deserved victory for their country on the French National Day, while newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron works hard to reboot the French economy. Vive la France.
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