Although Bardet was defeated, he certainly caught the imagination with an inspired and aggressive ride, and moved into third overall, 21 seconds off Chris Froome’s lead.
The AG2R La Mondiale team sent Jan Bakelants, Mikaël Chérel and Ben Gastauer up the road in the day’s main break before Bardet joined forces with Fabio Aru (Astana) and bridged across.
The French team set a furious pace at the front of the break, going toe-to-toe with Team Sky, who were leading the chase for Froome. At the foot of the final climb the AG2R-led break had three minutes over the bunch when Bardet exploded off the front with 10 kilometres to go.
He was on his own for less than a kilometre when Pinot painfully dragged himself up to his rival’s wheel. The FDJ rider was less of a threat on GC, while Bardet was still the virtual leader on the road having started the stage less than two minutes down on Froome. It meant that Bardet was forced to set the pace for the majority of the climb and when he attacked Pinot once more with three kilometres to go he couldn’t shake his companion.
“It was exceptional,” Bardet said of his team’s performance after they took the race by the scruff of the race and dictated proceedings.
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