Saint-Girons - Bastille Day is a time for fun and
festivities but for Chris Froome and his Tour de France rivals it will be a day
of danger and suffering on Friday.
For most mortals the prospect of a 101km bike ride through
the Pyrenean mountains would seem daunting, but for reigning champion Froome
and race leader Fabio Aru, it is a short and punchy stage 13 with pitfalls
Froome was off colour on Thursday and lost his yellow jersey
to Aru by just six seconds after cracking on the brutally steep final climb to
He will wear the barely familiar white jersey of his Sky
team on Friday as the beaming Italian Aru dons yellow for the first time.
Froome has worn yellow more than 50 times at the Tour but
now that Aru has his hands on the jersey, he's determined his depleted Astana
team will fight hard to keep it.
"We've already said since the beginning of the Tour
that this is a dangerous stage," said Aru.
"Short stages can really hurt because they're done at
speed - with just 100km, there will be many riders in the break and we'll have
to follow them.
"I'm expecting a tough day."
Former Vuelta winner Aru leads Froome with Frenchman Romain
Bardet, the winner of Thursday's 12th stage, third at 25sec and Colombian
Rigoberto Uran fourth at 55sec.
But all eyes will be on Froome to see how he reacts to his
unexpected struggles on Thursday.
Bardet for one is expecting the Briton, a three-time Tour
winner, to strike back on Friday.
"We'll have to be careful of Sky, they don't like
losing and will try to turn it around," warned Bardet.
He's also not getting carried away by talk of dead kings.
"We remain human beings and if he (Froome) showed his
limits, he nonetheless did well to limit the damage and I'm wary about how
If the riders will be on edge during the stage, organisers
and local police are also nervous at a time of high tension in France.
Last year's Bastille Day celebrations were overshadowed by a
jihadist attack in Nice that saw 86 people killed.
Security at the Tour has been ramped up this year, in
particular for this stage with specialist anti-terror units following the race
in a helicopter and a canine team trained in sniffing out explosives amongst
crowds of people also deployed.