PEYRAGUDES, France (VN) — The likelihood of Fabio Aru winning the 2017 Tour de France is improving after the Italian left leader Chris Froome behind and rode into the yellow jersey Thursday in the Pyrénées.
Astana’s Aru shot ahead in the final steep meters. Only Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) could match his pace. Team Sky leader Froome, the defending Tour champion, struggled and lost 22 seconds.
“I’m very happy,” Aru said. “In life we have to try. I did it 350 meters from the finish line.
“The finale was really hard, but I thought just of making it all the way up to the finish line, and now I can enjoy an indescribable emotion. Wearing the leader jersey in the most important race in the world is one of the finest things that can be experienced by a cyclist.”
The 27-year-old Sardinian overhauled Tom Dumoulin to win the 2015 Vuelta a España. He also placed second and third in his home tour, the Giro d’Italia. Not only did he don the famous maillot jaune after stage 12 near the Spanish border at the Peyragudes airstrip, but he took a big step toward winning the race overall.
Froome appears on his back foot with Aru and Bardet challenging. Further back, Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) and Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) are improving as well.
“I only lacked this one after wearing the pink jersey in the Giro and the red one in the Vuelta. What can I say? I’m very happy,” Aru continued.
“That being said, let’s stay with our feet on the ground. We are only at stage 12, there are still many stages left until Paris.”
Aru may not rest easy in his yellow jersey since tomorrow the riders face a tricky stage to Foix. It is not a summit finish or a long haul, but at 101 kilometers, it is expected to explode from the start.
“The nicest thing right now is to enjoy the moment without thinking of tomorrow. Only tomorrow in the bus, in the team meeting, will I be thinking of the work ahead. For now we just raced 215 kilometers, which was demanding and we deserve to relax a bit,” Aru added.
“I know that my teammates will do their best to protect this yellow jersey tomorrow. Despite their crashes, my teammates gave their best for me. I want to appreciate this moment of happiness with the yellow jersey.”
The next stage climbs three category 1 climbs. The first, the Col de Latrape, tops out at 70km to go. After the Col d’Agnes, the Mur de Péguère leaves 27 kilometers to the line.
“Already when I looked at the course, I could see that this stage being only 100 kilometers long would be very dangerous. We’ve seen in previous races that these stages can hurt a lot with their very high speeds.”
Aru would be the first Italian to win the Tour de France since Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 if he can hold on. However, he is right to be circumspect at this point. The Tour’s stage 20 individual time trial in Marseille does not favor the climbing specialist.