Tour de France - stage 12: Bardet victor, Aru yellow

Overall, Aru leads Froome by six seconds and Bardet by 25.

"It's one of the most lovely things that can happen to you in life, wearing the yellow jersey", said Aru, who rides for the Astana team.

"I didn't have the legs in the final but there's still a long way to go", said Briton Froome, a three-time Tour victor and reigning champion.

Christopher Froome, Rigoberto Uran, Warren Barguil and Romain Bardet during the final sprint.

Yates retained the white jersey for best young rider but saw his advantage over Meintjes cut to 2:38 after the South African rode clear of him - and Froome - on the final sting in the stage's tail. With Froome toiling home 22 seconds down in seventh place, Aru - victor of Stage 5 at La Planche des Belles Filles - overturned his 18-second deficit to move four seconds ahead of Sky's triple Tour champion.

Tour de France - stage 12: Bardet victor, Aru yellow
Tour de France - stage 12: Bardet victor, Aru yellow

How Froome might have wished for the legs he had on these same roads in 2012, when he was made to wait for Sir Bradley Wiggins when he wanted to attack in search of a stage win. However, the Colombian is still 55sec off the lead, as he was at the start of the day, after being penalised 20sec for illegally taking a water bottle from his team in the final 10km. Quintana and Contador both conceded more than two minutes.

"The number one priority for us is to not allow anyone to come back into the general classification game if they've already lost some time", the Team Sky rider said. But Cummings didn't have the legs on the first category Col de Peyresourde and was caught with 8.6km left. Quintana was next to go amongst the favourites with Spanish two-time former victor Alberto Contador also wilting with just over 5km left.

New Zealand's George Bennett climbed from 10th to 9th overall. Aru was next to attack with Froome, who had vowed on Wednesday to stick to the Italian "like glue" trying to follow.

Ireland's Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) betrayed little signs of his horror crash on Sunday to finish 13 seconds down in sixth place.

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  • Lawrence Cooper