Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) might have taken his first win of the season on stage 12 of the Tour de France to Peyragudes, but the Frenchman is worried about how Team Sky will react on Friday after Chris Froome lost his yellow jersey.
Bardet countered a move by George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Fabio Aru (Astana) in the final kilometre today. The uphill kick with gradients of 16 per cent saw Froome quickly slip behind by 22 seconds and out of the yellow jersey.
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“It’s a short stage of only 101km and it’s obvious that the organisers want to have a crazy day tomorrow. We have also previewed tomorrow’s stage and I expect a battle,” Bardet said.
“It might be harder than today’s stage. I believe that Sky are not happy with today’s outcome. They are proud and they will focus on getting the lead back.
“We have seen that the level in the mountains is close, but tomorrow there can be very big gaps in the overall especially because Astana has been quite unlucky until now and the race can become exciting.”
Watch: Tour de France stage 12 highlights
Bardet won the stage and took the time bonuses along with it. Aru gained the yellow jersey by six seconds over Froome and 25 over Bardet.
The peloton faces three category one climbs and a final 27-kilometre descent to Foix on Friday’s stage 13, with history suggesting that such a short stage could see a major GC shake-up.
In similar short stage to Formigal in the Vuelta a España in 2016, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador left behind an isolated Froome. He was unable to recover enough in the following time trial and finished second overall to Quintana.
Bardet, who placed second overall in the Tour de France last year behind Froome, will have his eyes on tomorrow as well as the Alpine stages in the third week.
“For now, I’m happy to raise my hands up in the air, it’s a relief because I hadn’t done it this year, and to do it at the hardest race of the year is a real satisfaction,” Bardet added.
“Having done that I can now focus on the overall. I was really disappointed on Sunday [stage nine to Chambéry], because that was a stage I liked, I like to race offensively. Our race Sunday was close to perfection, and today it was just racing the final 500 metres, so I don’t want to draw conclusions for the overall classification from today. We will think about this after tomorrow.”
Bardet is pushing to end the long dry spell for the host country. Not since 1985 with Bernard Hinault has a Frenchman won the Tour de France.