Aru takes Tour lead (4)

Not today. Stage 12 of the Tour finished with a pair of climbs in rapid succession, and through the first, it was business as usual. "To race offensively our race on Sunday was close to perfection and today it was just racing in 500 meters", Bardet said.

Frenchman Romain Bardet, who overcame a crash, resides in third place, 51 seconds behind Froome.

"This shows that Froome is beatable", exhorted Alexander Vinokourov, Aru's Astana team manager.

French favourite Romain Bardet won stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, two seconds ahead of Colombian Rigoberto Uran, with Aru third.

But the Italian is not getting carried away. "It will be quite unsafe and hard". Two years on, Froome, having moved into the lead last week, had said his intention was to wear the yellow all the way to Paris.

"The race is certainly on now", he said with a smile.

"It's not the end of the world", said Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal, who saw some positives in Froome losing the yellow jersey.

Chris Froome certainly avoided assassination (he still sits in second place in the overall classification, at just six seconds), but he irrefutably blew up.

"It's not a disaster but it still hurts".

Froome's Sky teammates controlled the race until the final kilometer leading to the ski station of Peyragudes, but the three-time champion cracked in the grueling final section featuring slopes with a 20 percent gradient.

"There's some good stages coming now and there are a lot of people exhausted, so I have to eat a lot of rice and pasta, refuel and try again in a few days".

Vinokourov, though, said this stage was significant, not least because Froome has often excelled in the Pyrenees in the past.

Chris Froome's failure to hang on in the final stretch of Thursday's 12th stage of the Tour de France has set the stage for a nail-biting finale, as his main rivals have sensed a weakness in the defending champion.

He congratulated Bardet "for his handsome win", and also Aru.

"I had a bad moment there at the end".

Aru attacked hard with a few hundred metres to go and Froome initially went with him before dropping 20 seconds back at the line. I can be happy with my ride.

A tough 101km stage from Saint-Girons to Foix could cause further changes to the general classification tomorrow.

It's an unusually short stage for a Grand Tour but it should be fast and fireworks are expected.

"It's a short stage of only 101km and it's obvious that the organisers want to have a insane day tomorrow". I mean, I could barely even get out of the saddle. normally that would be a great final for me.

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