The new leader of the Tour de France is a familiar one — three-time champion Chris Froome.
Froome finished third on a Stage 5 summit finish Wednesday, 20 seconds behind stage winner Fabio Aru of Italy and four seconds behind runner-up Dan Martin of Ireland.
Froome made up a seven-second deficit on teammate Geraint Thomas, who was the overall leader going into the three-week stage race’s first mountain day. Thomas, a longtime support rider for Froome, finished 40 seconds behind Aru in 10th place at La Planche de Belles Filles.
Froome now leads Thomas by 12 seconds in the overall standings through five of 21 stages. The goal is to keep the yellow jersey through to Paris on July 23.
“This is going to be the hardest-fought battle [for the Tour title] I’ve ever had,” said Froome, Tour winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Froome attacked Wednesday with one mile left chasing Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana champion who had opened a 20-second lead with a move a half-mile earlier.
Froome was joined by general-classification rivals Richie Porte and Romain Bardet. Contenders Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana fell off, finishing six and 14 seconds behind Froome, respectively.
The new overall standings:
1. Chris Froome (GBR) — 18:38:59
2. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — +:12
3. Fabio Aru (ITA) — +:14
4. Dan Martin (IRL) — +:25
5. Richie Porte (AUS) — +:39
7. Romain Bardet (FRA) — +:47
8. Alberto Contador (ESP) — +:52
9. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +:54
The peloton caught the last two breakaway riders — Belgians birthday boy Philippe Gilbert and Jan Bakelants — with two and a half miles left.
Wednesday marked the first Tour de France stage in 30 years to start without any rider who had previously won a points classification title.
Peter Sagan, top sprinter at the last five Tours, was disqualified Tuesday after his contact with 2011 green jersey winner Mark Cavendish caused Cavendish to break his shoulder-blade and abandon the Tour.
Thursday’s Stage 6 will be a day for the remaining sprinters. The 134-mile trek from Vesoul to Troyes crosses the River Seine and is straight and flat for the final kilometer. Expect Germans Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel and Frenchman Arnaud Demare to vie for the stage win.
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