Stage 12: Pau to Peyragudes(214.5 km)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, after 2 sleepy stages it was time today that the peloton rose the dragon. The race entered the Pyrenees today. The last KM would be a 20% gradient hill. OH YES! BRING IT ON! (So much easier to say when you’re not the one climbing it)

As you can see on the map, the was a Category 4 climb to begin with, followed by an intermediate sprint at 94k and then Cat 2 at 111.5, Cat 1 at 139.5, Hors Category at 184k and Cat 2 just before and Cat 1 climb at the finish!!!
As you can see from the picture. Froomey and Yates were wearing Rain jackets to show off, no, just kidding, it was a rainy start. Today is also the 50th Death Anniversary of the British legend Tom Simpson.
For those who don’t know Mr Simpson’s story: He was the Cycling World Champion in 1965. In the thirteenth stage of the 1967 Tour de France, Simpson collapsed during the ascent of Mont Ventoux. He was revived and muttered “Put me back on my bike”. He started climbing again but collapsed and died. He was 29 years old. The post-mortem examination found that he had mixed amphetamines and alcohol; this diuretic combination proved fatal when combined with the heat, the hard climb of the Ventoux and a stomach complaint. . From 1968, Doping controls were introduced in the Tour De France. Wikipedia entry on Tom Simpson reads: “Simpson was known to have taken performance-enhancing drugs during his career, when no doping controls existed. He is held in high esteem by many cyclists for his character and will to win.” Well, so did Lance Armstrong. And he was WAY better rider than Tom Simpson. His will to win made him do all in his power, things which weren’t right. But hey, Armstrong is still alive and didn’t die because of doping. So everyone will treat him as a pariah. Pantani and Simpson died because of it, so they are “heroes”. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. Anyways. Michael Gogl (Trek), Marcus Burghardt (Bora) and Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty) were the first three attackers of the day but were caught. Jay McCarthy (Bora), Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) and Markel Irizar (Trek) attacked and formed a leading trio at km 6 but were caught again. With a lot of attacking happening, Alberto Contador fell at the back of the pack. 12 riders moved to the front, building a 1:30 lead at Km 18: Cyril Gautier (AG2R-La Mondiale), Imañol Erviti (Movistar), Koen De Kort (Trek-Segafredo), Stefan Küng (BMC), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel and Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Julien Simon (Cofidis). So yeah, first half wasn’t that hilly that’s why Kittel and Matthews were at the front. This lead swelled to 2:45 by Km 38. At the 2024th KM of the Tour De France(km 46 for today), there was a sign for Paris 2024 Olympic Games(A bid that I support, Paris will be the perfect city to host the Olympics)
Thomas De Gendt took the 1st peak at côte de Capvern, getting 1 point in the KOM competition even as the peloton fell 4:55 back. The intermediate sprint was hotly contested, with Michael Matthews (just)besting Kittel today.
At the Cat. 2 KOM at Col des Ares at km 111.5, took 5 more points Thomas De Gendt with Michael Matthews 2nd.
Marcel Kittel was fifth (ON A HILL!) and was so close to scoring his first KOM point. On the 3rd climb Col de Menté, Matthews beat De Gendt! That too Category 1 climb! Kittel was dropped, if only he could climb as well as he sprints. Michael Matthews got dropped at the beginning of the ascent to Port de Balès. 10 riders remained in the lead with 2.40 minutes over Maxime Bouet and Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Oscaro). Peloton led on the same steady pace by Team Sky was 4 minutes behind.
As the climbing started over the HC climb, riders began to drop. With 5.5k to go De Gendt attacked to go solo, but was joined by British Road and TT Champion Cummings.
And then there were 2
Meanwhile Jakob Fuglsang(Astana) who had two small fractures in his left arm after crashing yesterday was dropped from the yellow jersey group. Cummings went solo with 3k to go and he looked majestic. From the yellow jersey group, the Polka Dot Jersey wearer Warren Barguil attacked and was followed by Alberto Contador, which was quite heartening to see. However, exactly 2 minutes later Contador was caught. And so was Barguil. And it was all because of the Team Sky train driven hard out by guys like Michal Kwiatkwoski, Mikel Nieve and Mikel Landa. Cummings crested the HC Port de Balès and started his descent. Meanwhile, the Yellow jersey group quickly moved to just 2 minutes behind Cummings. Cyril Gautier and De Gendt followed Cummings, but on the descent Gautier crashed. Luckily, he was not to injured and got back on his bike. Cummings took advantage of tricky conditions and built his lead to 2:10 with 15 kms to go as he started climbing to Col de Peyresourde. Chris Froome missed a curve as he followed a team mate who went in a caravan park instead of turning but luckily didn't crash. Aru went with off road with him but they both were back on their bike. No one took advantage of this incident. Not even Quintana. I was pretty impressed. Video of the crash here: (To be honest it was quite funny). Once they were back, Sky started to push the pace which resulted in Quintana getting dropped(no surprises here, I still don’t get or never will get what’s the big deal about him). With 10k to go the Peloton started pushing hard cutting down Cumming’s lead to 1’05. Kwiatkowski who was pulling incredibly finally decided to drop off. Nieve took over and the Peloton was 40 seconds behind Cummings. And with 8.6k to go, Cummings was going(SO SORRY for that) backwards as he was caught. 11 riders composed the yellow jersey group: Froome, Nieve and Mikel Landa (Sky), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Fabio Aru (Astana), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Dan Martin (Quick-Step), Louis Meintjes (UAE) and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott). Contador was dropped before the Peloton crested the Cat 1 col de Peyresourde. Nieve led the group to the top, getting 10 points. While Contador fell back, even Nieve was done and now it was time for the big boys to play with 1 km to go. With 1k to go, nobody had attacked but everyone looked exhausted. The 1st guy to go was Bennett with 700 meters to go, but he was caught. Then Aru followed and that’s when Froome tried to attack too. His teammate, who had been pulling him all day long, Mikel Landa, seemed to perfectly fine, but today something was off with Froome. He just swayed and swayed on his bike, even as Bardet, Aru and Uran went on the offensive. Bardet took the stage win, with Uran finishing an impressive 2nd and Aru 3rd.
Froome really struggled, losing 20 seconds in the last 200 meters, which showed he really had been cracked today, making Aru the race leader and breaking Team Sky’s hold on the yellow jersey for the 1st time in this Tour. Video of the last KM: Today’s results:
Overall Standings:
Jersey Wearers after Stage 12:
Tomorrow is yet another hilly day, really harsh and Froomey is without his right hand man Geraint Thomas and Aru is without Fuglsang. Will Aru hold on? In my opinion, even if Aru holds on, he needs atleast 1:30+ lead over Froome if he has to beat him, given the upcoming ITT. #TDF2017


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