Thomas booed on Alpe d’Huez despite winning 12th stageArchive
L’ALPE D’HUEZ: Geraint Thomas became the first yellow jersey wearer since disgraced Lance Armstrong to triumph on the legendary Alpe d’Huez after a thrilling finale to a punishing Tour de France 12th stage on Thursday.
But the Welshman, along with team-mate Chris Froome, was met by a chorus of boos and jeers at the finish as Team Sky’s domination of the race continued.
Thomas took the lead of the race on Wednesday with an impressive victory atop La Rosiere on what was the second day in the Alps.
In a thrilling finale to the 175.5 km race from Bourg Saint Maurice, the former track rider beat Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) by two seconds in a sprint to the line, with French climbing specialist Romain Bardet (AG2R) in third.
Thomas now leads team-mate and four-time champion Chris Froome by 1min 39sec in the overall standings, with Dumoulin in third at 1:50.
However their hopes of soaking up their success were dashed when fans booed the Team Sky riders as they crossed the finished line.
Earlier, Froome narrowly avoided disaster when he was struck by a fan at the roadside. Italian rival Vincenzo Nibali also crashed due to a collision with a fan but finished the stage.
After claiming the top two positions in the overall Wednesday, Team Sky’s rivals were intent on redressing the balance on the third and final day in the Alps.
And for a long while, it looked like Thomas’s lead was in danger when Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk launched an audacious attack after he had squeezed into an early breakaway.
The Lotto Jumbo rider, the highest-placed of the breakaway riders in sixth overall at 2:40 behind Thomas, became the virtual race leader on the long descent of the Col de la Madeleine.
But Team Sky took over the chasing duties on the descent of the Col de la Croix de Fer, and by the time Kruijswijk began racing through the valley to the foot of the Alpe d’Huez, his lead had been cut to just over four minutes.
As expected, the Sky train ripped into Kruijswijk’s lead.
Only young Colombian Egan Bernal, on his race debut, was left to pace Thomas and Froome on their pursuit of the Dutchman after the opening kilometres of the 13.8 km climb to the summit.
But the pace was furious.
Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde’s slim hopes of fighting for a podium place ended when he was spat out the back.
With 7km remaining for Kruijswijk, his lead had been halved, to two minutes.
But spice was added to Sky’s chase of the Dutchman when Movistar’s Mikel Landa attacked their group, taking Bardet along for the ride.
Bardet, a two-time podium finisher in the 2016 and 2017, then flew off on his own in pursuit of Kruijswijk.
With just under 4km to go, a Froome attack was countered by Italy’s former champion Vincenzo Nibali, who came crashing to the ground after a collision.
A series of attacks and counters inside the final two kilometres proved indecisive.
But when Thomas negotiated the final bend with tactical perfection, it gave the Welshman the extra metres required to forge ahead and claim the win.
The last Tour de France race leader to triumph on the Alpe was Armstrong, who was wearing the yellow jersey when he won a time trial in 2004.
The American’s stage win, like all his results, were later scrapped from the history books after he was found guilty of doping throughout his career.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2018