UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes continued his fine form as he secured a top five finish during Stage 12 of the Tour de France.
The 25-year-old was part of the leaders group crossing the finish line, moving up to tenth position in the General Classifications.
AG2R La Mondiale rider Romain Bardet soloed over the finish in triumph following a 214.5km ride from Pau to the summit finish at Peyragudes, with Fabio Aru taking the yellow jersey from Chris Froome.
It was a stunning performance nonetheless from South African Meintjes, who said: “Towards the end everything happened very fast. I’m really pleased with my performance.”
“In stages like these, you have to plan your attack well and know the course in advance especially when you’re up against teams like Team Sky, otherwise you are just wasting your energy.”
With white jersey leader Simon Yates finishing ninth, Meintjes reduced the gap in the young rider classification by 20 seconds – with the Briton still leading by 2 mins 38 seconds.
“The White Jersey is still something I am working towards, however the other day I lost quite a bit of time to Simon Yates that I think will be hard to get back. But who knows, anything can happen! I am hoping for the best.”
Friday’s stage will be another gruelling mountain ride, this time an explosive 101km race through the Pyrenees from Saint-Girons to Foix.
Chris Froome surrendered the yellow jersey to Fabio Aru as Romain Bardet won stage 12 of the Tour de France in Peyragudes.
Froome faded badly on the brutal final climb of the 214.5km stage from Pau while Aru finished third to take the final bonus seconds on offer.
The Italian national champion now leads the Tour by six seconds from Froome, with Bardet closing to within 25 seconds of yellow in third place overall.
A tough day in the mountains finished with a climb of the airstrip at Peyragudes, only a few hundred metres long but with gradients nearing 20 per cent.
The group of favourites came to the foot of the climb together, but after Aru struck out first, Froome struggled to respond.
Frenchman Bardet timed his attack to perfection, taking victory ahead of Aru and Colombian Rigoberto Uran, both two seconds back but picking up bonus seconds.
Froome finished a lowly seventh, 22 seconds behind Bardet.
Irishman Dan Martin was sixth, 13 seconds behind the winner while Simon Yates came home ninth in the best young riders’ white jersey, but gave up 20 seconds to rival Louis Meintjes of UAE Team Emirates.
Marcel Kittel cantered to a fourth stage win of the Tour de France at the end of Tuesday’s 178km 10th stage from Perigueux to Bergerac with Chris Froome retaining the overall lead.
The 29-year-old German was imperious as he won easily ahead of compatriot John Degenkolb with Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen third.
“It’s true, it’s amazing, I can’t even tell you how proud I am,” said Quick-Step’s Kittel.
“It’s a fourth stage win in 10 days, that’s a great achievement for me and the team.”
But it was the manner of Kittel’s victory that was most impressive.
Once he accelerated from around half a dozen bodies back, he simply breezed past the competition and streaked clear to win by a couple of bike lengths, even having time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line.
It means he is well set to make this his best Tour yet as he has already matched his previous top effort — four stage wins in both 2013 and 2014 — less than half the way through this year’s race.
In fact, Kittel has won four of the five flat sprint finishes at the Tour this year, and in the one he didn’t win he was held up by a crash in the final kilometre
A tilt at the record of eight stage wins from a single Tour has now become a viable possibility.
Kittel also broke the record for stage wins by a German, moving one clear of the 12 mark he had shared with Erik Zabel following his stage victory on Friday.
And he increased his lead in the green points jersey competition, emphasising the possibility of Kittel holding it all the way to Paris — although he has a fair way to go to match Zabel’s record of six wins in that category.
Earlier in the day French pair Yoann Ofredo and Elie Gesbert took off from the get-go on Tuesday’s stage and held a lead of five and a half minutes at one stage but their effort was always doomed to failure and they were inevitably caught with seven kilometres left.
For Briton Froome, the reigning champion, and the other overall contenders it was a quiet and calm day in the saddle.
The 10th stage followed Monday’s rest day and Froome admitted Tuesday’s stage “almost” felt like a second successive day off.
“It was a calmer day, there wasn’t much wind and no stress today — it was a less complicated stage.
“It’s never easy but today was calmer.”
That would have been a relief after Sunday’s calamitous stage that saw five riders crash out, including Australian contender Richie Porte.
Froome kept hold of the race leader’s yellow jersey with an 18-second advantage to Italy’s Fabio Aru.
France’s Romain Bardet is third at 51sec.
UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes retained 11th place in the overall GC whilst second in the Youth Classification.