Tour de France: Overall leader Geraint Thomas wins 12th stage

Geraint Thomas prevailed in the Alps for the second straight day, streaking past the field in the final kilometer. Chris Froome finished second; he remains more than a minute and a half behind his colleague at Team Sky.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas reinforced his grip on the yellow jersey on Thursday, winning the 12th stage to the summit of Alpe d'Huez.

In a riveting finish, the Briton finished the grueling 175.5-kilometer (109-mile) mountainous stretch from Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs 2 seconds ahead of Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, with Romain Bardet of France finishing third.

Defending champion and Thomas' Sky teammate Chris Froome finished in fourth, receiving jeers from the crowd as he crossed the line. Team Sky's dominance in recent years, perhaps coupled with currently unproven allegations of cheating, has tested some fans' patience. 

The leading pack swapped positions quite a few times as they climbed the last 13 kilometers up the 1,850-meter (6,070-foot) high Alpe d'Huez, whose gradient can be up to 11 percent. But Thomas, a former track rider, remained with his Team Sky pack before turning on the jets with a half of a kilometer to go.

With questions over which rider Team Sky is backing for victory, the Welshman, who has been Froome's loyal lieutenant for years, put in a bold performance to retain the yellow jersey, which he picked up after winning Wednesday's 11th stage. Thomas' lead over Froome now sits at 1 minute, 39 seconds.

Thursday was the 30th time the Tour de France pack has navigated from Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs to Alpe d'Huez. It was the first time the stage — a veritable fan favorite — has been used since 2015.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1952: Fausto Coppi's solo charge

The mother of all mountain finishes — a 14-kilometer closing climb averaging a gradient of 8 percent — is born because a hotelier wants to promote his ski resort. On the first Alpe d'Huez climb ever, in 1952, Italian Fausto Coppi (l.) left his French rival Jean Robic in his wake; scaling the summit in a solo charge and laying the foundations for his overall victory that year.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1976: Joop Zoetemelk claims the mountain

This man helped start a tradition: In 1976, Joop Zoetemelk became the first Dutch rider to win the Alpe d'Huez stage. The Netherlands claimed another seven stage wins that year. Ever since, thousands of Oranje fans make the pilgrimage to Alpe d'Huez whenever it's on the Tour's route, giving the summit a distinct Dutch flavor, including frikandel hot dogs.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1978: Michel Pollentier's urine swindel

Michel Pollentier (pictured here during the 1982 Tour of Germany) won the 1978 stage, claiming the yellow jersey in the process. But then he was disqualified for failing a doping test; he was found with a container of clean urine.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1984: Amateur Luis Herrera defies the pros

He's Colombian cycling's trailblazer. Luis "Lucho" Herrera made waves in European cycling by winning the stage as part of an amateur team in 1984, aged just 23. Only the youngster's woeful performances in the time trials prevented him from securing an impressive overall finish that year. Herrera is on the right of this photo, battling with Pedro Delgado in a 1987 event.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1986: With friends like these...

Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault cross the line arm-in-arm, a case study in team spirit... Or maybe not! Shortly before this finish-line truce, the pair had been battling hammer and tongs. The older Hinault promised LeMond the year before that he would play a supporting role, but later said he did not recall this, and attacked. LeMond was able to resist and win regardless.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1997: Marco Pantani sets record time

It's one of those records that might last forever. Marco Pantani (who died in 2004 and was suspected at the time of doping) scales the climb from Bourg d'Oisans to Alpe d'Huez in an incredible 37 minutes and 35 seconds. Not even Lance Armstrong would later manage to top that. And nowadays? Thibaut Pinot scaled the summit during his 2015 stage win in 41:11 minutes. A sign of a cleaner sport?

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

1999: Guerini and the clumsy photographer

The world can look different through a camera's viewfinder. This hobby photographer badly misjudged how much time he had to get a shot of Italian Giuseppe Guerini, causing the leader to fall. Nevertheless, Guerini is able to remount and claim the stage.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

2001: Lance Armstrong's brilliant bluff

For the whole stage, Lance Armstrong appeared to be fading fast. The American rode well behind in the peloton, grimacing badly. His German rival Jan Ullrich therefore relaxed, let his teammates ride ahead and lost touch with them. But then, at the start of the grueling climb to Alpe d'Huez, Armstrong magically recovered. He briefly looked his rival in the eyes, then charged away. Checkmate.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

2008: Carlos Sastre's climb to yellow

A tactical error or a schism within the team? Luxembourg's Fränk Schleck is in yellow at the base of the Alpe d'Huez climb. At that point, his Spanish teammate Carlos Sastre attacked. It looked like team tactics: a dummy attack designed to tempt and stretch the competition. But in the end, Sastre kept pushing to the summit, claiming the yellow jersey too. He would go on to win the Tour itself.

Tour de France: The 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d'Huez

2013: Chris Froome wobbles, at last

His critics begrudgingly call him the "robot" or the "metronome." Chris Froome is so dominant and consistent, seemingly never faltering. But in 2013, it was the Alpe d'Huez that revealed at least a chink in his armor. Froome hits a glucose low (a "bonk") and starts vehemently calling for help. The team car can't reach him, but teammate Richie Porte (r.) lends a hand with the damage limitation.

The race becomes a bit more downhill in Friday's 169.5-kilometer 13th stage from Bourg d'Oisans to Valence.

dv/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)