Team Sky rebounds after losing Tour lead


Associated Press

FOIX, FRANCE

After the setback, the fightback.

The day after losing the Tour de France lead to Fabio Aru, Chris Froome and his Team Sky showed on Friday they still have cards up their sleeves.

On the shortest stage of the 104th Tour, barring the two time-trials, Sky brought Mikel Landa into play — sending Froome’s Spanish teammate racing off ahead on a fast and furious Stage 13 that became part-chess, part a test of speed and endurance over a close-packed succession of three climbs in the Pyrenees.

End result: Sky has two riders — Froome and Landa — in the top five. From here to the July 23 finish in Paris, Aru will have to watch both like a hawk and not let either race off ahead of him in order to keep the famed yellow jersey.

“It’s perfect for us,” Froome said.

At just 101 kilometers (63 miles), less than half the distance of some of this Tour’s longest stages, the up-down, up-down, up-down route through the Ariege region of mountain cheeses and peak-perched fortresses delivered exactly what Tour organizers were hoping for: Full-on racing. They even got a cherry on top, with French rider Warren Barguil winning the stage on Bastille Day – the first tricolor victory on France’s national holiday since David Moncoutie in 2005.

“It’s incredible,” said Barguil, who has recovered remarkably quickly from a pelvis fracture in a crash in April. “I said before the start it would be good if a Frenchman won. It’s exceptional.”

The Sunweb team rider sped into the finish in Foix, overlooked by its imposing 11th century castle decorated with a French tricolor of red, white and blue, as part of a four-man group that included Landa, two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, and Nairo Quintana, a podium finisher at three previous Tours.

Contador accelerated first in the final sprint, but Barguil reacted immediately and adeptly negotiated the last U-bend on a bridge over the Ariege river, holding off Quintana to the line. Contador placed third.

By finishing fourth in that leading pack that sped in nearly two minutes ahead of a chasing group that included the Tour’s top four riders overall – Aru, Froome, French rider Romain Bardet and Colombian Rigoberto Uran – Landa clawed back valuable time in the overall standings. From seventh overall at the start of the stage, Landa is fifth, just 1:09 behind Aru.

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