Geraint Thomas bags stage 12 to extend lead in Tour de France

Geraint Thomas celebrates his stage 12 win
Geraint Thomas celebrates his stage 12 win

Geraint Thomas won stage 12 of the Tour de France on Alpe d'Huez to extend his lead in the yellow jersey and is 11/10 to win the race.

Sky Bet can barely split Thomas and team-mate Chris Froome in the outright betting, with Thomas 11/10 and Froome 10/11 - the implication being that it is a virtual certainty that one of the two comes out on top.

Welshman Thomas led home Team Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin and AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet at the end of the 175.5km stage from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, with Froome fourth and Movistar's Mikel Landa fifth.

The quintet had attacked and counter-attacked one another on the way up one of cycling's most famous climbs, but were back together in the final few hundred metres before Thomas accelerated out of the last bend to take the stage win for the second straight day.

Thomas, 32, becomes the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France on Alpe d'Huez.

Thomas won by just a couple of seconds from Dumoulin, with Bardet one second behind him and Froome a further second back.

With bonus seconds applied, Thomas extends his lead in yellow over Froome by 14 seconds to one minute and 39 seconds, with Dutchman Dumoulin a further 11 seconds back.

It was a second Tour mountain stage win in a row for Thomas following Wednesday's victory in La Rosiere, and his third career Tour stage victory.

Thomas had actually appeared in danger of losing yellow at the mid-point of the stage, with LottoNL-Jumbo's Steven Kruiswijk, who started the day sixth overall at two minutes and 41 seconds down, enjoying a lead of more than six minutes as he went clear of the day's breakaway.

The Dutchman hit the bottom of Alpe d'Huez with a lead of four minutes 18 seconds, but the gap began to tumble as the gradient bit and he was caught with 3.5km to go.

Landa, Bardet, Froome and Dumoulin all tried moves off the front as the ski resort came into view, but they were all together on the final bend before Thomas burst forward.

Froome was slapped by one spectator on the final climb and appeared to be spat at by another as he faced some of the lingering ill-feeling from the salbutamol case in which he has been cleared of wrong-doing.

The four-time Tour winner briefly turned to remonstrate with the man who hit out at him with around seven kilometres to go, but will be happy to have made it up safely.

Nowhere do the crowds get more up close and personal than they do here, and that may have been behind a crash which cost 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali time as he came off in a particularly crowded section of the mountain.

Thomas said: "I'm speechless, I don't know what to say. Not a chance in hell I thought I was going to win today. I just followed. Dumoulin, Bardet and Froomey were attacking. It was a bit of bad luck for Nibali. I rode into his back wheel and nearly came down myself.

"It's just unbelievable. Can we just go to Paris now?"

Asked how long he might keep yellow with his team-mate sat next in line and relatively flatter stages to come for the rest of the week, Thomas said: "Maybe the next few days, but this race is so hard. You never know how the body reacts.

"Like I said yesterday, I'm still riding for Froomey. Froomey is still the man. He knows how to ride for three weeks. Legend gets used way too much but he's probably the best ever so I'm just going to enjoy this."

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