Chris Froome lost the Tour de France yellow jersey to Italian Fabio Aru by uncharacteristically fading in the final kilometer of Stage 12 in the Pyrenees on Thursday.
France’s Romain Bardet, third in the overall standings, won the stage.
Rigoberto Uran and Aru were second and third, both two seconds behind. Froome, who entered the day with an 18-second lead on Aru, was 22 seconds back of Bardet in seventh place.
Aru now leads Froome by six seconds with nine stages left, culminating with the ceremonial ride into Paris on July 23.
“I just didn’t have the legs on the final [kilometer],” Froome said. “The race is certainly on now.”
The Brit Froome is trying to move within one Tour title of the career record of five shared by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.
But now Froome has relinquished the yellow jersey for the first time to a general classification contender in his six Tours.
The 27-year-old Aru, in his second Tour, will wear it for the first time in Friday’s Stage 13, adding to his collection of race leader jerseys from the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
Aru won the 2015 Vuelta, has finished second and third at the Giro and was 13th in his only previous Tour in 2016.
“It’s one of the most beautiful things that can happen to you in life, wearing the yellow jersey,” Aru said, according to The Associated Press. “Clearly, it won’t be easy to defend it.”
Tour de France Overall Standings
1. Fabio Aru (ITA)
2. Chris Froome (GBR) — +:06
3. Romain Bardet (FRA) — +:25
4. Rigoberto Uran (COL) — +:55
5. Dan Martin (IRL) — +1:41
Friday’s stage is the shortest mountain day in Tour history, half the length of Thursday’s trek into the Pyrenees.
Riders face three category-one climbs on the 63-mile day, with a 16-mile descent to the finish on Bastille Day, when French riders are always motivated to go for stage wins.
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