If the preceding 214 kilometres had been devoid of spectacle and intrigue, the steep final ramp to the finish line in Peyragudes on stage 12 of the Tour de France more than made up for it. Chris Froome, for only the second time in his career, saw the yellow jersey snatched from his shoulders, but the finale also had shades of the Team Sky controversy that unfolded further down the mountain five years ago.
Chris Froome's brief attack on teammate and race leader Bradley Wiggins that day in 2012 is now the stuff of legend and, though clearly not on the same level, there were question marks over Mikel Landa's role as Froome struggled on the brutally steep gradients.
The Spaniard, Froome's last teammate and himself in the top 10 overall, didn't look around as the maillot jaune lost ground, instead forging on to finish fourth on the stage. Soon doing the rounds on social media was television footage showing Team Sky director sportif Nicolas Portal admonishing Landa outside the team bus.
"The final 200 metres became a sprint in which, more so than time being lost, the stage victory was being played out, and it didn't occur to me to look back," Landa told the Cope radio station from the mountainside.
The Spaniard, rumoured to be leaving Sky at the end of the season, also suggested he could have won the stage, were it not for the brief to launch Froome.
"I was going really well, and if I'd have been going for the stage win maybe I'd have been further forward," Landa said. "I don't know about winning it, but I could have contested it."
After the exchange of words, Portal played down any notion of a Wiggins-Froome-style controversy, praising Landa for the work he’d done on a day when Sky dominated up to the final 200 metres.
"I wasn't angry with Mikel – he did an incredible job today," Portal told a group of reporters. "He didn't know that Chris was dropped but he was up there trying to get some of the bonus seconds, so that's how it is."
After the fact, Froome now sits second overall, six seconds down on new race leader Fabio Aru (Astana), while Landa is up into seventh, 2:55 in arrears.
"Having two guys up there GC, when the race starts to become a bit crazy and hard to control, it's nice to have two guys super strong on GC, so you have one more option," added Portal.
The episode ended on a humorous note, with Landa taking a photo in which he is seen choking Portal with the Frenchman's accreditation lanyard. All good spirits for now, but one to keep an eye on.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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