'The race is certainly on now': Froome loses Tour lead
CHRIS Froome was shaken and stirred after the Brit had the yellow jersey ripped off his back in a brutal climax to Stage 12.
On a day when new life was breathed into the Tour de France, Frenchman Romain Bardet powered clear to win on the Peyragudes airfield where they shot James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
Tomorrow hasn't died for Froome, but his rivals suddenly smell blood after the three-time Tour champion was distanced on the ultra-steep finale after a 214.5km, four-climb slog from Pau.
Rigoberto Uran, Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa, Louis Meintjes and Dan Martin all finished ahead of Froome, with Italian Aru's 20-second advantage on the day elevating him to new race leader.
It was a hectic day for Froome, who also ran off the road on a corner with 13km to go that saw teammate Mikel Nieve have to squeeze between two caravans.
His rivals then appeared to wait for him, which raised the eyebrows of many.
"It was certainly tough for me in the final. Our teammates did such an amazing job today, but I didn't have the legs to finish it off - simple as that," Froome said.
"No excuses. I just didn't have the legs on the final kick. That's a really, really hard finish. I can only say congratulations to Romain Bardet for winning the stage and also to Fabio Aru for taking the yellow jersey.
"The race is certainly on now. It's going to be a big fight now all the way to Paris."
On a gruelling journey through the Pyrenees, the peloton tackled the Col des Ares, Col de Mente, Port de Bales and the Col de Peyrasourde all in the last 100km.
A breakway group of 12 established a lead of more than six minutes, but one by one they were reeled in as Team Sky set a fearsome pace at the head of affairs.
"Everybody was just exhausted by the end," Martin said.
"There's been so many kilometres already this race and they might be flat stages, but it's still time on the bike.
"Someone every day is going to get hit by the hammer and it's going to be an elimination race. Everyone knew the last kilometre was going to be really hard and you could have lost 30 or 40 second in that last 300m."
Martin, who moved into fifth on GC, surprised himself given he is still struggling with back soreness after being caught up in the Stage 9 crash that took out Richie Porte.
"I was suffering all day. From the first kilometre my legs were empty and I had a really bad day. I expected to lose half an hour, to lose everything, so I'm really happy.
"The objective was to try and hang in. I mean, I could barely even get out of the saddle ... normally that would be a great final for me. I rode it perfectly but I just I just didn't have anything at the finish."
Martin said Froome's unexpected struggle made for a "very open race".
"It's very, very close. Everybody said before the start that's it's going to be the closest Tour," he said.
"Fabio (Aru) needs more time than that on Chris for the last time trial and I think Chris has definitely got that on his mind.
"He doesn't need to be in yellow all the way. He probably quietly enjoys not having it with all the attention he gets."