Stage 12 and the riders set out on a rainy 214 km journey through the Pyrenees. Mist over the mountains prevented flying so it became an unofficial rest day for the Tour choppers.
A twelve man breakaway including the likes of Stephen Cummings, Cyril Gautier, Diego Ulissi, Jack Bauer, Marcel Kittel and Michael Bling Matthews formed in earnest. Bling collected intermediate sprint points ahead of Kitteh but has a long way behind the man in green.
Kitteh was dropped on the category 1 Col de Menté. The Gruppetto formed through what Robbie called ‘natural selection’ as the road headed skyward and the Gorilla was spotted in the mist.
Chateaux were few and far between in this part of France with the exception of the old castle in Mauleon-Barousse which, as Mattie explained, had been destroyed and restored a number of times in its long history and was used as a prison during the French Revolution. The history lessons are enlightening but I wonder - was there anything NOT used as a prison during the French Revolution?
On the hors categorie Port de Balès Stephen Cummings was the first over the top.
The yellow jersey group commenced the descent of Port de Balès to the base of the Col de Peyresourde and Skybot Mikel Neive gatecrashed a picnic among the camping cars on a corner taking Chris Froome and Froome’s shadow Fabio Aru with him.
Controversy erupted when the rest of the yellow jersey group waited for Froome to rejoin. Keeno called it ‘driver error’ and there was no need to wait unlike for a mechanical or a crash. Now, if that was Aru in the group up the road...
Gotta wonder if Froome is a protected species, not just by his Skybots but the rest of the peloton.
So much for the unwritten rules and the unwritten rules are due for a rewrite.
And what was it with all the nature breaks? Was there beer in the bidons? The moto cameras didn’t know where to look. Robbie got sick of calling them nature breaks switching to 'comfort break'.
On the penultimate climb of the Col de Peyresourde, Cummings was still leading until caught 3 km from the summit. Hats off to Cummings, a huge effort which earned him 'the most biggest job of work' award.
In the yellow group Narrow Quintana was dropped at 11 km to go and it seems the attempt at a Giro-Tour double has taken its toll on the Colombian. Alberto Contador was looking a little more like his old self and even mustered up a bit of a Bertie dance on the pedals before eventually blowing up.
After a short descent of the Col de Peyresourde there was a short but brutal 2.4 km long climb to the finish at Peyragudes.
Riders were "throwing out the bidons" (it's sandbags Robbie, sandbags) and Kiwi 'Curious George Bennett' attacked but was quickly pulled back by Skybot Mikel Landa who looked like he was riding for Landa, not for Froome. Froome struggled as Fabio Aru slipped into the yellow jersey on the final ramp up to the line.
But it was the twelve year old Romain Bardet who first crossed the line to claim his third Tour stage win.
On the podium Aru had a grin wider than the entrance to Luna Park as he was presented with the golden fleece.
Just when you thought the Tour was predictable the race can be turned on its head in the space of a few hundred metres. Aru only has a 6 second lead but Froome looked vulnerable - everyone waited when he was in trouble and still he lost yellow.