Damien Howson
Team Mitchelton-SCOTT GreenEdge
Data from Garmin

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Stage 12 was a prime target of the Tour’s best GC contenders. With three famous climbs (Col de la Madeleine, Lacets de Montvernier and Col de la Croix de Fer), culminating in a summit finish atop the incomparable Alpe d’Huez, it was a fearsome day for even the strongest strongmen.

A star-studded early break (including current KOM Julian Alaphilippe and veteran Alejandro Valverde) eventually dwindled to just one: Steven Kruijswijk of LottoNL-Jumbo. The Dutchman bravely went solo with 71km to go, and entered the Alpe with nearly four minutes on the yellow jersey group. For a time he even held the virtual yellow jersey, but was steadily and excruciatingly reeled back by the Sky train on the stage’s penultimate climb.

By 10km to go the race was down to the GC favorites: Froome, Thomas, Landa, Roglic, Nibali, Dumoulin, and Bardet. The frenchmen launched multiple attacks, but were unable to shake Froome and Thomas. Nibali was seen briefly on the ground, apparently knocked off his bike by an overzealous spectator, but chased desperately back into contact. Loud boos could be heard from the crowd, directed at Froome, but they seemed not to affect the Briton. Quintana made a small attack, then faded from sight.

It’s always a little funny to see the lightweight GC riders sprinting, especially after such a leg-buster of a stage, but Thomas looked downright fresh en-route to one of this Tour’s most prestigious wins. He’ll stay in yellow, with Froome ousting Dumoulin for second in the GC. Steven Kruijswijk held on for tenth, and earned the most combative award for his stellar solo effort.

No longer in the race is EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale’s Rigobeto Uran, who did not start today, possibly due to injuries sustained in a crash on stage 9. Fernando Gaviria, Andre Greipel, Rick Zabel, and Tony Gallopin all ended their races as well. In all, seven riders gave up hopes of reaching Paris today, making this the most costly stage of the tour so far.

With the way they dominated both this stage and the current GC podium, it appears that Sky might have it in the bag once again. But there are ten strong contenders left, all riding within five minutes of Thomas. Although none has as strong a team as Sky, things are far from over with some serious racing still to come.