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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Aru in yellow and cut to 5-2 after Froome collapse on final climb

Martin can claim a stage success

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Chris Froome lost the yellow jersey in sensational fashion on the brutal finish at Peyragudes on Thursday, lacking the legs to go with his major rivals in the last 500 metres as the race was blown wide open.

Fabio Aru finished third to take the race lead by six seconds from Froome with stage winner Romain Bardet 25 seconds down and Rigoberto Uran, runner-up on the stage, 30 seconds further back, having picked up a 20-second penalty for an illegal feed. Dan Martin is next 1min 41sec behind Aru and Simon Yates, still in the white jersey, sixth at 2min 13sec.

Froome is still favourite but is now a best-priced 5-6 from 1-3 with Aru 5-2 from 9-2, Bardet 11-2 from 14-1 and Uran 16-1 from 50-1.

Froome appeared to be set up perfectly by his Sky team, who rode hard on the front all day, but his worrying pre-Tour form came back to haunt him on the final steep slope. The extent of his difficulty was clear from the fact that Mikel Landa, his final pacesetter, came back past him to take fourth on the stage with Froome seventh, 22 seconds behind Bardet.

The big question after the stage was whether Sky were trying to set up Froome for the stage win or bluffing about his condition and keeping the pace high to deter attacks by rivals.

Whatever the case, Froome is going to come under more pressure from riders emboldened by his late collapse, although Sky still have the strongest team and are likely to ride defensively with the time trial in Marseille on Saturday week in mind.

Aru’s weakness is that he has no teammates to help him on the big climbs but Bardet’s AG2R team has already shown inventiveness with their tactics in the mountains and, with two other riders in the top 15, they are in a good position to go for a first French winner of the Tour since 1985.

Steve Cummings was the last of a 12-man breakaway to be caught on stage 12, with 9km to go, and by that time Sky’s pressing had reduced Froome’s rivals to a group of eight: Aru, Bardet, Uran, Martin, Yates, Alberto Contador, Louis Meintjes and George Bennett.

The big names missing from the elite group were Jakob Fuglsang (fifth overall at the start of the day), who was clearly compromised by his crash injuries and is likely to pull out before long, and the lacklustre Nairo Quintana (eighth).

Friday is Bastille Day and traditionally that has been a day for home riders to attack. In the noughties that rarely came to anything, but the revival of French cycling in recent years must give them hope of a big day.

Even more so after Thursday’s drama, this looks likely to be an exciting stage as the route features three category-one climbs in just 100km on the road to Foix, which should make the racing fast and furious.

Several French riders could make a bold bid, including Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Gallopin, stage-eight winner Lilian Calmejane and Pierre Rolland. Alexis Vuillermoz also looks a likely sort and could well be sent up the road by AG2R, although his main job will be to support Bardet.

But the intensity of the racing could bring the top riders to the front again and, if that happens, Martin is a likely winner in a sprint from a small group.

He probably would have beaten Uran on stage nine if he hadn’t been brought down by Richie Porte on the descent and this could turn out to be an ideal chance to make up for that misfortune.

D Martin
1pt 12-1 Paddy Power

Froome appeared to be set up perfectly by his Sky team, but his worrying pre-Tour form came back to haunt him on the final steep slope
E.W. Terms
Sky bet