Froome loses yellow jersey as rivals sense weakness on tough finish
14 July, 2017, 00:38 | Author: Douglas Reid
Froome's Sky teammates controlled the race until the final kilometer leading to the ski station of Peyragudes, but the three-time champion cracked in the grueling final section featuring slopes with a 20 percent gradient.
But for Froome, the day's good work was undone in the space of a few hundred metres as he finished seventh, 20 seconds behind Aru, surrendering his general classification lead and the yellow jersey to his Italian rival.
As impressive as Aru has been in the Tour so far, he and Astana received a double blow on Wednesday as a result of a crash in the feed zone on the road to Pau, where Marcel Kittel collected his fifth stage win of this year's Tour.
"We won't be holding anything back on a stage like (Thursday's) but at the back of our minds we will be thinking about the following day", Froome said.
"Today was a chance, I just needed the right combination", the 36-year-old said. "I was patient. I made the difference on the final hill".
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"I can only say congratulations to Romian Bardet for winning the stage and to Fabio Aru for taking the yellow jersey". "Clearly, it won't be easy to defend it".
Aru, victor of the Vuelta a Espana in 2015, now leads the GC by six seconds from Froome, with Bardet 25 seconds off the lead in third.
He was grimacing with the effort, his arms glistening with sweat, as he wrestled his bike up the super-steep climb that was used a location for the 1997 James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies". Froome tried to respond but didn't have the legs to follow - yet Bardet did. "It was a very, very tough finish". "I did my utmost at the end".
"Being just 100km, I imagine it will be 100km of flat-out racing".
The shift in power was sudden for Froome's Team Sky, which had held the yellow jersey since Geraint Thomas' time trial win in Dusseldorf on the opening day. The breakaway group split up as Stephen Cummings launched a solo offensive.
Nairo Quintana had already been dropped as the Colombian struggled to recover from the Giro d'Italia. Cummings was then caught with 8km left, lining up a dramatic finale.
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