Romain Bardet and Fabio Aru blew the Tour de France yellow jersey race wide open on Thursday as Chris Froome showed his first signs of weakness.
Bardet won the 12th stage while Aru, who was third, stripped Froome of the race leader’s yellow jersey.
In an amazing finish on an uphill airstrip with a vertiginous 20 percent gradient, Aru went on the attack in the last few hundred metres.
Froome tried to respond but didn’t have the legs to follow — yet Bardet did.
The French hope overhauled Aru and won by two seconds from Colombian Rigoberto Uran, who finished in the same time as Aru.
Froome, who held an 18-second lead over Aru at the start of the day, was 22 seconds back and lost the jersey.
Coupled with his four-second time bonus for finishing third, Aru took over the race lead by six seconds as things started to get cramped at the top of the standings.
Bardet remains third but just 25sec off Aru with Uran still fourth but now only 35sec back.
The big loser of the day was Colombian twice former runner-up Nairo Quintana, who cracked some 12km from the end of the 214.5km mountainous stage from Pau to Peyragudes in the Pyrenees.
Quintana lost more than a minute and a half and his chances of winning the Tour now look slim.
Results from stage 12 of the Tour de France, a 214.5km long mountainous stage from Pau to a summit finish at Peyragudes on Thursday:
1. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 5hrs 49min 38sec.
2. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) at 0:02sec.
3. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:02.
4. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 0:05.
5. Louis Meintjes (RSA/EAU) 0:07.
6. Daniel Martin (IRL/QST) 0:13.
7. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:22.
8. George Bennett (NZL/LNL) 0:27.
9. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 0:27.
10. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 1:28.
11. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 2:04.
12. Warren Barguil (FRA/SUN) 2:08.
13. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 2:11.
14. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 2:15.
15. Pierre Latour (FRA/ALM) 2:59.
16. Guillaume Martin (FRA/AJW) 4:20.
17. Tiesj Benoot (BEL/LOT) 4:33.
18. Serge Pauwels (BEL/DDT) 4:36.
19. Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA/ALM) 4:36.
20. Brice Feillu (FRA/TFO) 4:56.
Tour de France overall standings after stage 12, a 214.5km mountainous run from Pau to a summit finish at Peyragudes on Thursday:
1. Fabio Aru (ITA/Astana) 52hrs 51min 49sec.
2. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) at 0:06sec
3. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:25.
4. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:55.
5. Daniel Martin (IRL/QST) 1:41.
6. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 2:13.
7. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 2:55.
8. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 4:01.
9. George Bennett (NZL/LNL) 4:24.
10. Louis Meintjes (RSA/EAU) 4:51.
11. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 7:14.
12. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 7:30.
13. Pierre Latour (FRA/ALM) 8:13.
14. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 8:53.
15. Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA/ALM) 12:16.
16. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 13:46.
17. Emanuel Buchmann (GER/BOR) 14:14.
18. Carlos Betancur (COL/MOV) 15:40.
19. Warren Barguil (FRA/SUN) 16:03.
20. Brice Feillu (FRA/TFO) 16:23.
– Agence France-Presse