Yellow jersey winner Geraint Thomas won his second Tour de France stage in a row on Friday to pad his lead. He’s the first rider to conquer the famed Alpe d’Huez while wearing yellow. Also for the second consecutive stage, Tom Dumoulin was the runner-up. The fire starter of the day was Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, making an epic solo bid for the win on the day that his team’s sprinter and back-to-back stage winner, Dylan Groenewegen, climbed off the bike. Thomas leads his teammate Chris Froome by 1:38 on GC.

The Course

There was more than just the fabled 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d’Huez to negotiate on Thursday. The riders faced three HC climbs in total, including the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer. There was also the short steep Cat. 2 Lacets de Montvenier. All this in 175.5-km.

Another Large Breakaway

At 25.3-km long at 6.2 percent, it was natural that the Madeleine was where the day’s escape would form. The escape was large and contained some big names like polka dot wearer Julian Alaphilippe, Alejandro Valverde and the best situated of them all, Kruijswijk.

Alaphilippe padded his KOM lead at the top, but it would be EF-Drapac’s Pierre Rolland skipping away from the others on the descent. Rolland lit out for glory, his team’s GC hope Rigoberto Uran having withdrawn from the race.

Rolland topped out the 3.4-km, 8.2 percent Lacets de Montvenier with a 20-second gap over the big chase and 3:50 over the peloton. Kruijswick, sixth place overnight at +2:40, was the virtual yellow jersey.

Croix de Fer

Kruijswijk and Valverde bridged over to Rolland at the foot of the Croix de Fer, a 29-km ascent with the steepest grades at the top and bottom. After a couple of kilometres, the lead group’s numbers had swelled. With Ilnur Zakarin and Mikel Nieve in the mix, Nairo Quintana, Dan Martin and Romain Bardet must have been concerned about their GC positions. Kruijswick, Valverde and Rolland had teammates.

Seventy-three kilometres from the finish, Kruijswijk went solo.

AG2R and Movistar grabbed the reins from Sky and increased the pace. The sharp-shouldered Dutchman topped the Croix de Fer with 53-km in front of him and a 6:00 gap over Thomas. His closest pursuers were Mikel Nieve, Warren Barguil and Rafal Majka three minutes in arrears.

On his way to the foot of Alpe D’huez, Kruijswick fought the wind blowing up the valley along the Grand Maison reservoir.

Alpe d’Huez

The spectacle of the 21 turns, 13.8-km of eight percent grade, is always electric.

The black and yellow clad Dutchman started Alpe d’Huez with a 4:20 gap on the yellow jersey peloton and no one in between. With Egan Bernal pushing for Sky, Valverde, Bob Jungels, Zakarin and Dan Martin were unlatched.

Vincenzo Nibali attacked in the first third of the switchback, but Bernal eagerly hooked him back. Nairo Quintana’s attack also failed. A Landa and Bardet move was successful only for the Frenchman. With 6.6-km to go, Kruijswijk’s gap was a mere 2:06. Quintana then tumbled out the back, ensuring Landa as Movistar’s main man.

Bardet’s attack seem to doom Kruijswijk, now holding only a minute’s gap with five-kilometres to go. Bernal finally gave up his labours. Nibali came to grief in a crowd caused crash; after the stage Thomas said he rode over the Italian’s wheel.

Froome attacked and caught Kruijswijk with 3.5-km to go. Dumoulin pulled Thomas and Bardet up to Froome.

Inside 3-km the quartet slowed down and Landa rejoined. Bardet charged away again at the 2.5-km to go mark, and then Dumoulin threw down the glove.

At the red kite it was Dumoulin, Thomas, Froome, Bardet and a plucky Landa to sprint it out. Landa then jumped at 700-km remaining, but it would be a five man sprint, with Thomas pulling out a gap and holding it over Dumoulin. Bardet placed third.

Friday is a sprinter’s day, one without Fernando Gaviria, Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and Groenewegen.

2018 Tour de France Stage 12

1) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Sky) 5:18:37
2) Tom Dumoulin (The Netherlands/Sunweb) +0:02
3) Romain Bardet (France/AG2R) +0:03

2018 Tour de France GC
1) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Sky) 44:06:18
2) Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky) +1:38
3) Tom Dumoulin (The Netherlands/Sunweb) +1:50
4) Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Bahrain-Merida) +2:37

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