On Thursday, that tried and trusted strategy never got going, and he surrendered the overall race lead to Fabio Aru. Usually those are the differences seen in the top-three after the Pyrénées and two weeks of racing. 'It was very, very tough at the finish, ' he said.
A dramatic stage 12 was won by Romain Bardet, who also put himself in the frame for yellow as there was a dramatic tightening at the top of the general classification.
New Zealand's George Bennett climbed from 10th to 9th overall.
Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) of Germany registered his 10th win of the career in stage two after making a late comeback in the race. Add Rigoberto Urán in fourth, and it's the closest Tour in history at the halfway mark. 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.
"To tell you the truth, it has been a very difficult Tour for me until now". Bardet is third overall, 25 seconds off the pace. 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. "I used my experience".
"The organisers want to make it a crazy race", said Bardet about Friday's stage.
Sprinter Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Oscaro) has has been having a good outing at his first Tour de France. No excuses. I just didn't have the legs in the final. This was maybe the hardest [win] to get but I will try to enjoy it.
Team Sky had produced a typically dominant performance, sitting at the front of the bunch all day but when Froome's final domestique, Mikel Landa, peeled off at the foot of the final, brutal ascent, the race leader had nothing to give. Aru's best teammate, Jakob Fuglsang, finally abandoned the Tour after riding for two days on a fractured wrist.
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