Thomas takes stage win and yellow jersey on Tour de France

Geraint Thomas leads Team Sky teammate Chris Froome during Stage 12 of the Tour de France. Jeff Pachoud  AFP

Julian Alaphilippe claimed the first mountain leg of this Tour de France on Tuesday, while Greg Van Avermaet kept the overall lead for a seventh consecutive day. Thomas has been one of Froome's most loyal lieutenants for years and Sky labeled him a co-leader with Froome entering this year's Tour.

Twice podium finisher Romain Bardet, hoping to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985, has suffered from bad luck with four ill-timed punctures, including three in Sunday's stage to Roubaix.

Even with the yellow jersey, and a lead of 1:25 over Froome in second place, he will give his attention to Froome.

Team Sky riders Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas remained in the peleton for the duration of the stage and are now over two minutes behind Van Avermaet in General Classification.

Next came the intermediate sprint at Thônes won by green jersey leader Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) out of a large group which formed after the first climb and contained van Avermaet. He knows how to race over three weeks.

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"Obviously I'd love to stay up on the podium as long as possible but the main thing is winning and Froomey is our best chance. If I have to pull towards the end, then I will", Thomas said.

As the tour headed to the mountains for the first time following yesterday's rest day, a group of 21 riders including Van Avermaet broke early from the peleton.

However, the 2012 Tour champion suggested that dual leadership could leave the team with "a real problem on their hands" with the reduced number of riders per team at this year's race potentially leaving Froome and Thomas isolated. "When they go, it is never nice to see them all riding away but we had confidence in each other and we rode really well".

After going up the beyond-category ascents to Montee de Bisanne and Col du Pre, plus the second-category Cormet de Roselend, the stage concluded with the unprecedented and lengthy 17.6-kilometer climb to La Rosiere - a ski resort linked to La Thuile in the Italian region of Valle d'Aosta. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic track cycling gold medalist won the opening time trial in 2017 and wore the maillot jaune four days before Froome took over en route to his fourth title in Paris.

Several riders, including Gilbert, were dropped quickly into the climb.

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