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Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome found himself physically targeted by an angry spectator on Thursday as Team Sky's historic day at l'Alpe d'Huez was overshadowed by boos directed at both him and brilliant stage victor Geraint Thomas.

Froome is 3:21 behind Van Avermaet after recovering from a punctured tire atop the second of the stage's ascents, finishing with Thomas and most of the top contenders.

Nibali, who claimed his sole yellow jersey in 2014, was transported to hospital with a suspected vertebra fracture after coming down hard following the collision. I think it's fantastic for us to have those options.

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. He knows how to race for three weeks.

"Even as I crossed the line, it was, 'Surely there is someone still up the road, '" he said.

Former champion Vincenzo Nibali crashed with about four kilometres left and ended seventh, 13 seconds off the pace.

"Does Dave B come in and do his usual and be quite divisive and get in each other's ear and kind of keep them both motivated for the same goal and there be a natural selection?" said Wiggins, who was angered by a perceived leadership threat from Froome in 2012.

Thomas added that it was speculative to discuss it before a single mountain stage.

The last Tour de France race leader to triumph on the Alpe was Armstrong, who was wearing the yellow jersey when he won a time trial in 2004.

Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, who claimed his maiden stage win past year on the Champs Elysees and won stages seven and eight on this edition, was the first to get off his bike, before the halfway stage of the gruelling 12th stage held over 175.5 km between Bourg d'Oisans and Alpe d'Huez.

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An attack by Thomas prompted climbing specialist Romain Bardet to counter, which in turn prompted Froome to counter the Frenchman.

"I don't know how many kilometers I was alone - phew, it was a bit risky but I tried to up the pace and I really profited".

Instead Van Avermaet honoured the yellow jersey with a superb ride on the 158.5km stage 10 from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand, getting into a breakaway and staying clear to the finish.

Kittel and Renshaw both finished just under 45 minutes behind stage victor Geraint Thomas of Team Sky but still failed to make the cut.

The second climb of the day to Plateau des Glieres featured a section on dirt roads.

THE Tour de France was hit by a unsafe prankster today - as a BMX rider jumped over the peloton.

When it did, there were plenty of high-profile riders in it, including Kruijswijk, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and white jersey Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale). During today's 12th stage of the Tour, Froome was accosted by a fan who lunged toward the cyclist as he made his way up a hill.

That stage, however, was fatal to last year's runner-up Colombian Rigoberto Uran, who lost over two minutes just two days after losing ground following a crash on the cobbles.

"Maybe if I'm still right there after Alpe d'Huez (on Thursday), it's a bit different then".


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