Michael Matthews (Sunweb) was in the breakaway of the day, winning the intermediate sprint. Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) was second, and retains the green jersey by a wide margin.

Photo Gallery: 2017 Tour de France, Stage 12

by Evan Hartig

Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) took an emphatic Tour de France stage victory Thursday atop the steep Category 2 climb to Peyragudes, accelerating away from a select group of GC contenders in the last 100 meters on a 16% grade. Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) finished second, with Fabio Aru (Astana) in third on the 215 kilometer stage that featured five categorized climbs.

Aru took a four-second time bonus at the line, as race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) was distanced going into the finish, finishing 22 seconds behind Bardet and 20 seconds behind Uran and Aru, relinquishing his GC lead to the Italian champion — the first time he’d lost the yellow jersey on a climb since he first wore a maillot jaune in 2013. In 2015, Froome relinquished the yellow jersey to Tony Martin for three days during the first week, but he had never before relinquished the race lead to a GC contender, and never in the mountains.

With six categorized climbs on tap and the intermediate sprint falling after the first undulation of the day, the category four Côte de Capvern, the 12-rider move that ultimately rolled saw an interesting composition with strong climbers like Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Cyril Gautier (Ag2r La Mondiale), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), and Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo), along with all-rounders Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Jack Bauer (Quick-Step Floors), Stefan Kung (BMC Racing), and Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin). Imanol Erviti (Movistar), and Julien Simon (Cofidis) were also in the move along with sprinters Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) – the final two targeting the intermediate sprint 100 kilometers in at Loures-Barousse.

The breakaway proceeded to the base of the only HC category climb of the day, the Port de Balès, at 185 kilometers into the day. With just over 40km remaining, the gap to the peloton, led by Team Sky, was four minutes.

De Gendt was the first instigator of pace, accelerating at the front of the break 5km from the top of the Port de Balès. His move drew out Cummings, who caught and passed the Belgian, going solo 3km from the top. The British champion hit the bottom of the Category 1 Col de Peyresourde with a two-minute lead over the yellow-jersey group.

The yellow jersey group tackled the Peyresourde after absorbing the remnants of the day’s breakaway. Quintana was the first of the favourites to lose contact. Cummings was caught 3km before the top of the Peyresourde, with 8.6km left in the stage.

Eleven riders composed the yellow jersey group: Froome, Nieve and Mikel Landa (Sky), Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Aru (Astana), Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Dan Martin (Quick-Step), Louis Meintjes (UAE) and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott). Contador was dropped in the last kilometre of the Peyresourde, prior to a quick descent followed by the sharp finish at Peyragudes.

Landa took over duties in the final uphill kilometres, pushing a pace so difficult attacking appeared impossible. Bennett was first to give it an effort, only to be reeled back quickly. Into the final kilometre Aru attacked, putting Froome into difficulty. Bardet caught and passed Aru, with Uran in tow. Landa left Froome behind, presumably to steal away bonus time at the line, but the Spaniard could only manage fourth on the stage behind the Bardet, Uran, and Aru in that order.

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