There is only one thing certain at the Tour de France: Nothing is certain.
Following two frenetic days of racing in the Pyrenees, no one would have bet a cent on a change of leadership on Saturday after Stage 14, a rolling 181.5-kilometer (113-mile) ride with no major difficulty.
But a short and steep climb to the finish in the southern town of Rodez was enough for Chris Froome and his mighty Sky team to recover the yellow jersey they lost two days before in the mountains.
The day’s big loser was Fabio Aru, the Astana leader, who cracked in the last 500 meters and relinquished the coveted tunic to the three-time champion.
While the Team Sky train hit the front in the technical and twisting final kilometers at high speed, Aru was at the back and didn’t come back before the peloton split in the climb. He lost touch with the leaders in the sharp ascent of the Cote de Saint Pierre and crossed the line 25 seconds behind stage winner Michael Matthews.
Froome was well positioned and had no problem tackling the final climb. He finished hot on the heels of Matthews.
‘’It’s a beautiful surprise today,’’ said Froome, who lost his jersey after enduring a bad day on the road to the ski station of Peyragudes.
Froome said he had no explanation for Aru’s breakdown. But Astana team director Dmitryi Fofonov said the Italian climber simply paid for his efforts in the previous days.
‘’He was on his own, isolated,’’ Fofonov said. ‘’We had crosswinds the whole day, we needed to be up front all the time to avoid the splits. Then the finish was explosive, with sprinters climbing very fast. Not Fabio’s favorite ground. Today we lost a battle, but not the war.’’ Froome, who had a six-second deficit at the start of the stage, is enjoying an 18-second advantage over Aru, who is paying for the weakness of his Astana team.—AFP