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 Stage 12 on Thursday.
But the Welshman, along with teammate 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-kilometre race from Bourg Saint Maurice, Thomas 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 teammate and four-time champion Chris Froome by one minute, 39 seconds in the overall standings, with Dumoulin in third at 1:50.
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 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 13.8km climb to the summit.
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.
With just under 4km to go, a Froome attack was countered by Nibali, who came crashing to the ground after a collision.
When Thomas negotiated the final bend with tactical perfection, it gave the Welshman the extra metres required to forge ahead and claim the win.
Chris Froome was spat at, punched and a fan even mooned at him as another thrilling Tour de France stage was marred by unaccepable roadside manners. Geraint Thomas won his second consecutive stage, and retained the Yellow Jersey, with defending champion Froome crossing the line just four seconds behind him, in an exhilarating finale. Thomas...
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