Pidcock wins Alpe d’Huez stage, Vingegaard keeps Tour lead

ALPE D’HUEZ, France (AP) — In his first Tour de France, 22-year-old Tom Pidcock became the youngest winner of a stage on the iconic Alpe d’Huez mountain after crossing the line solo at the ski resort on Thursday, when Jonas Vingegaard kept the overall lead.

The mountain bike Olympic champion from Britain attacked on the ascent, and his frenetic pace up the legendary 21 hairpin bends was too fast for his breakaway companions.

“That was certainly one of my best experiences in cycling,” said Pidcock, a jack of all trades who also owns a cyclocross world title. “It’s unreal when you’re literally slaloming through people’s flags, fists and God knows what else. You can’t experience that anywhere else other than the Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France.”

For his first day in the yellow jersey, Vingegaard finished three minutes, 23 seconds behind Pidcock to keep his overall lead intact. The Jumbo-Visma team leader was in a group including defending champion Tadej Pogacar and 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas.

Pogacar, who cracked on Thursday in the first big Alpine stage, tested his rival twice in the last three kilometers but Vingegaard responded with ease.

Vingegaard leads Pogacar by two minutes, 22 seconds, with Thomas third, 2:26 off the pace.

Pidcock and four-time champion Chris Froome had joined forces earlier in the day in the downhill of the Col du Galibier to catch the breakaway. The daunting 165-kilometer (102.5-mile) Stage 12 from Briancon featured three tough climbs so difficult that they are classified as “beyond category” — the Col du Galibier, the Col de La Croix de Fer and the climb to Alpe d’Huez.

At the foot of the final climb, the five remaining breakaway riders — Louis Meintjes, Froome, Pidcock, Neilson Powless and Giulio Ciccone — had a lead of more than six minutes on the group including all the main contenders.

Amid the sound of cowbells and flares lit by some of the hundreds of thousands of fans lining the road, Pidcock accelerated with 10.5-kilometer left as he dropped Powless and Ciccone.

Meintjes and Froome stayed in contention a bit longer but Pidcock attacked again to dash Froome’s hopes of claiming a first win since the crash that nearly ended his career three years ago.

Pidcok beat the record of Colombia’s Lucho Herrera, who was 23 when he won on Alpe d’Huez in 1984. Meintjes was second at the top, 48 seconds behind, and Froome completed the stage podium.

“I gave it everything I had. No regrets,” Froome said.

Vingegaard took control of the race on Thursday at the end of an epic day of cycling that knocked Pogacar off his pedestal. After spending the day harassing the two-time champion with relentless attacks, Vingegaard finally dropped his Slovenian rival in the last climb of Stage 11.

Thursday’s battle between the main contenders was less spectacular. Jumbo-Visma riders rode at the front of the yellow jersey group in the final climb, setting the tempo and preventing attacks from Vingegaard’s rivals, except Pogacar’s moves.

On a disappointing Bastille day for French riders, Romain Bardet was dropped on the final climb and slipped to fourth overall, 2:35 off the pace.

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