Fabio Aru of Astana is the new leader of the Tour de France after Chris Froome of Team Sky cracked during a sensational finish to today's Stage 12 at Peyragudes, won by AG2R-La Mondiale's Romain Bardet.
The Italian leads the defending champion by 6 seconds with Bardet a further 19 seconds back after the race was blown apart in the final 500 metres of the 214.5 kilometre stage from Pau. Cannondale-Drapac's Rigoberto Uran - second today, with Aru third - had been only 35 seconds off the race lead, in fourth, but was subsequently docked 20 seconds for an illegal feed.
Team Sky appeared to have ridden the stage almost perfectly, retaining three riders - Mikael Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa and Mikel Nieve - in support of Froome by the time the Porte de Bales was crested with 20.5 kilometres left and the trio were still there as the last but one ascent, the Col de Peyresourde, approached.
The one blemish on what seemed to be another mountain stage where their dominance at the front of the main group would exhaust rivals and set up Froome for a stage win was when Nieve misjudged a corner at the bottom of the descent of the Porte de Bales.
The Basque rider ended up between two caravans, Froome and Aru also taking the same line, startling the fans camping there who got a closer look at the leading pair than they would have expected.
Froome was led up most of the final 2.5 kilometre climb to the finish by Mikel Landa, the expectation being that the race leader would attack as soon as the road reared up for the closing 500 metres.
But the tank was empty and Froome finished 22 seconds behind Bardet, runner-up in Paris last year.
Italian champion Aru was the man who launched the final attack and while he didn't get the stage win, he will be in yellow as the race heads into the Pyrenees again tomorrow, but he may have to do so without Jakob Fuglsang's help. The Dane hurt his wrist yesterday in the same crash which ended Astana team mate Dario Cataldo's race, and was in evident discomfort today.
Although it was always going to be a GC day today, a 12-man breakaway went early and contained two riders who have won Grand Tour stages with trademark long-range solo attacks, Thomas De Gendt of Lotto-Soudal and Dimension Data's Steve Cummings.
De Gendt attacked the break as it was blown apart on Port de Bales, but was caught and overhauled by Cummings ahead of the summit.
The British champion was seeking a stage win for the third year running, but was caught with 8.5 kilometres left as the overall contenders raced towards the explosive finale.
Stage winner Romain Bardet
I was very disappointed to miss out on the stage victory on Sunday but I feel an immense happiness today. I was the first cyclist to ride on this new road [leading to the finish today] when I was here with my parents [in May].
It was a long day on the saddle today, so it was important to mentalise the finish.
In May, Peyragudes was a desert but I knew it would be all fired up today.
Now that I got the stage win I was looking for since the beginning of the season, I can focus on GC.
Building on my past experiences, I wanted to reach the podium earlier than last year. That's my way to improve my cycling.
New overall leader Fabio Aru
It is impossible to describe my emotions and feelings. For every rider, it is a dream to wear the yellow jersey. In my career, I was wearing the pink jersey of the Giro and the red jersey of the Vuelta. So, I’ve missed just the yellow and today I’ve got it! I am super happy!
Honestly, it was a very tough stage, also the weather did it even harder. I want to thank my team, who supported me and kept me in front the whole day.
The last climb was very fast and steep. I attacked with more or less 350 metres to go and gave my all for a maximal result.
I congratulate Romain Bardet with a nice victory. But for me it is a great trophy to get this yellow jersey.
Unfortunately, yesterday Dario Cataldo was forced to quit the race after the crash. Also, Jakob Fuglsang had a terrible day today – he rode with an injury. So, I want to dedicate this yellow jersey to them and also to the entire team, who was close to me in these days.
There are a lot of important stages still ahead here at the Tour de France and already tomorrow we will have a short but difficult stage in the Pyrenees, which can change a lot.
I think we have a strong team and despite yesterday crashes we are ready to continue our fight at the Tour. We will move here step by step, stage by stage.
Chris Froome, now second overall
It was certainly a tough day for me at the end. My teammates did such an amazing job but I didn’t have the legs at the end to finish it off. It’s as simple as that – I just didn’t have the legs on the final kick.
The steep finish is brutal – it ramps up to over 20 per cent, which is a really, really hard finish.
I can only say congratulations to Romian Bardet for winning the stage and to Fabio Aru for taking the yellow jersey.
The race is certainly on now.
Steve Cummings, winner of today's combativity prize
This was one stage I could target. It's a pity Team Sky didn't give us more time.
At the end, I had no more legs… but I tried. There are some more nice stages to come. I have to recover from this one and try again.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.