After seven days, Chris Froome lost the yellow jersey for the first time. Fabio Aru replaced him at the top of the overall, but he has the Briton and the stage winner, Romain Bardet, closely behind him. Rigoberto Uran, Daniel Martin, Simon Yates and Mikel Landa are all within three minutes.
There have been hints of tension among the Team Sky camp after this end. For almost six hours Sky controlled the race as it headed into the Pyrenees, although some think they were hiding that Froome was not feeling his usual self.
Aru began his final sprint among an elite group of ten, which hit the 20% slopes of the runway together. When he got next to Froome, the latter initially held his wheel before slipping back. That was the sign for the Italian to press harder, with Bardet biding his time before rolling forward to take his third stage win in three years. Froome was showing a face the Tour has not seen before, meanwhile: contorted, livid, with his legs clearly unable to obey his brain as the rest scraped their way past. He lost 22sec by the end, which is not definitive margin but represents a massive setback for a rider and a team who always function best on the front foot.
Friday’s Bastille Day stage, with its 100km and three first category climbs, has always been intense. Now it can be expected to be utter chaos. Astana, Aru’s team, are without their toughest workhorse in Dario Cataldo while Jakob Fuglsang has broken bones in his elbow and wrist and was incapable to hold the pace of the leaders. In the other hand, Bardet wants the yellow jersey as soon as possible. Even if Froome has not quite recovered overnight, Sky have Landa and Nieve in threatening form. Uran’s Cannondale team are old hands when it comes to aggressive racing while Martin – although still suffering from back trouble after his crash en route to Chambéry – and Yates will love the cut and thrust.
Check WagerWeb and find the best online betting site.
There were other notable absentees from the select lead group, aside Fuglsang : Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador, who both lost more than two minutes; Quintana’s challenge would appear to be over but Contador might thrive if Friday is as chaotic as expected.