Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) gave the home nation plenty to cheer about on Bastille Day with the victory on a scintillating Tour de France stage in the Pyrenees in which Fabio Aru (Astana) defended the overall lead.
The short 101-kilometre stage featured three category one climbs in its centre, with a long descent to the finish in Foix. The action started from the gun, and what followed was one of the most thrilling Tour stages in recent memory.
Frenchman Barguil took the victory from a ‘dream’ escape group, with a resurgent Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in second and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) in third.
Chris Froome and his Team Sky squad once again applied pressure to their rivals, but in a completely different show of tactics from the previous day – putting riders into escape groups to aid Froome, rather than drilling it en masse at the front of the bunch.
However, despite having no team-mates to assist him, Italian Aru countered everything thrown in his direction to keep hold of the race lead.
Aru leads Froome by six seconds, with Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r) in third at 25 seconds.
How the stage developed
Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) formed the day’s first break that really stuck after the start in Saint-Girons.
The trio hit the first of the day’s three category one climbs together – the Col de Latrape – but De Marchi was the strongest climber, and left his two companions behind on the ascent.
Behind, KOM leader Barguil attacked from the peloton in an attempt to grab the mountains points on offer at the summit. Crucially, he was followed by Contador and Mikel Landa (Team Sky).
Barguil, Contador and Landa caught and ultimately left De Marchi behind, and then started to tackle the Col d’Agnes. It was here that Contador launched his move, with Mikel Landa (Team Sky) following and the two riders quickly built up a lead.
Sensing a chance to regain lost time, Quintana attacked from the bunch on the Col d’Agnes. He had Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Carlos Betancur (Movistar) for company, but Betancur was dropped as they scooped up Barguil.
With 58km to go and on the ascent of the Col d’Agnes Contador and Landa were at the front of the race, with Quinata, Barguil, Vuillermoz and Kwiatkowski chasing and the Aru/Froome group at 1-35 to Contador.
By the summit, that gap had grown to 2-40. Romain Bardet (Ag2r) attacked over the top, followed by Froome. The two got a gap, but then slowed up allowing a regrouping on the descent.
Ahead, the Quintana/Barguil/Kwiatkowski group got with 10 seconds of catching the Spanish duo of Contador/Landa, but Contador accelerated into the final climb of Mur de Péguère and the gap stretched out.
The yellow jersey group became whittled down to just the top riders, with Aru, Froome, Uran, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), Louis Meintjes (UAE-Team Emirates), Bardet, Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), although Bennett was dropped before the top.
Kwiatkowski dropped back from his group, effectively waiting for Froome. Quintana and Barrguil made the junction with Landa and Contador to make a group of four in the lead.
Froome attacked in the final kilometre of the Mur de Péguère, bridging to Kwiatkowski. Aru, Uran and Bardet followed over, but the GC group was back together over the summit.
There were then numerous attacks on the fast, final descent. Froome and Kwiatkowski used their numerical advantage to keep applying pressure on Aru. Uran also had a concerted effort.
Barguil once again showed he has a strong sprint for a climber, out-pacing Quintana and Contador for the victory as Landa was distanced.
Towards the finish, Martin and Yates clipped off the front in an attempt to limit their losses in the overall classification from the four riders ahead.
Despite all of the days attacks and tactics, Froome finished with Aru in the group, meaning that Aru retained the yellow jersey and his six-second advantage over the defending champion.
Uran, meanwhile, rode himself up into third place and Froome’s team-mate Landa is now fourth, with Martin in fifth and Yates in sixth.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) finally left the race after battling on with injury over the past few days. Arthur Vichot (FDJ) was another withdrawal, due to illness, leaving FDJ with just four riders in the race.
The 2017 Tour de France continues on Saturday with stage 14 from Blagnac to Rodez as the race now starts to head east towards the Alps. It’s a tricky stage that gently rises all day, with two third category climbs and a nasty uphill kick to the line. The race concludes in Paris on Sunday, July 23.
Tour de France 2017 stage 13: Saint-Girons to Foix, 101km
1. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, in 2-36-29
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
3. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 2 secs
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 1-39
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at same time
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 1-48
8. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
9. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at same time
General classification after stage 13
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, in 55-30-06
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 6 secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 25 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 35 secs
5. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1-09
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-32
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 2-04
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2-07
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 4-51
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 5-22