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Welcome back to Le Tour and to today's stage 12 from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davézieux. We are heading out of the Alps down to the Rhone valley, which means two Cat. 1 climbs in the first 80 km of the parcours, and then a flat, downhill section until the finale, where another Cat. 3 hill will spice up the finish.
With 226 kilometres on the menu today, this is the Tour's longest stage - and it happens to be on a Friday 13th, which could make some riders nervous.
The stage is starting right now. The riders are rolling out of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the 3.6km neutral section. The weather is sunny at about 18°C, so we should be up for another summerly stage.
The start is expected to be fast as the only chance for non-sprinters today will be to get into a very early breakaway. That being said, the small bump on the profile with 19kms to go (the Côte d'Ardoix) could very well serve as a springboard for late attackers.
And they're off! All riders who finished yesterday's queen stage through the Alps are at the start again today, except for Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who is now looking forward to making up for his bad luck at the Vuelta.
At the start, Bernard Hinault also gave his view of today's stage: "Today's is going to be rather laid back. After the two climbs there are more than 100km of flat terrain, so I think the sprinters will be able to pull their card.
"Those who raced hard yesterday might want to recover today, and those who took it easy yersterday might want to take to the front today. So I think there will be a breakaway, possibly including a sprinter..."
As expected, the riders are racing hard from the gun. Several breakaway attempts have already been made and squashed, with Sylvain Chavanel (Omega) oone of the attackers.
The road is going slightly downhill until we will reach the bottom of the first climb, the Col du Grand Cucheron (12.5 km @ 6,5%) at km 34.
Will Peter Sagan (Liquigas) continue his takeover of the Tour de France sprints today and make it a fourth victory? Many seem to think so, as the Slovak's odds with the bookmakers vary from 3/1 to 4.4/1 depending which online betting system you look at. But some also seem to think that Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will use his excellent form for a solo victory, as his odds are estimated at 15/1.
Chavanel continues to try and get away, but they won't let him...
Europcar's Cyril Gautier as well as a handful of other riders have a small gap. Let's see if they can make it.
There are about 19 riders in the breakaway, including Burghardt (BMC), Millar (Garmin), Grivko (Astana), Popovych (RadioShack) and Chavanel (Omega).
The gap to the front of the bunch is still only small, though. They are battling hard.
It looks like the peloton is giving the break the green light. They are at the foot of the Col de Cucheron now. They have one minute advantage.
Millar, Sorensen, Grivko, Vorganov, Péraud, Bouet, Gautier, Perez, Burghardt, Marcatop, Popovych, Koren amongst the names.
@inrng Fri, 13th Jul 2012 10:33:23
Finally, Radio Tour gives us the names of the attackers, there are 17 and no Chavanel:
Burghardt (BMC), Popovych (RNT), Gautier (EUC), Perez (EUS), Koren (LIQ), Millar (GRS), Péraud (ALM), Edet (COF), Marcato (VCD), Gusev, Vorganov (KAT), Lung, N.Sorensen (STB), Grivko, Kiserlovski (AST), Grabsch (OPQ) and De Kort (ARG).
The breakaway is well-balanced teamwise and working hard right now on the climb. There are four former Tour stage winners in the group: Burghardt, Popovych, N.Sorensen and Millar.
FDJ had been making the tempo until now, and actually reduced the gap from 1'40" to one minute, but now Sky has taken over and is riding a less challenging tempo.
A counter-attack of eight riders has now formed, initiated by Rui Costa (Movistar).
But Costa's move is doomed, and now David Moncoutié (Cofidis) has been able to get away and is at half a minute of the break.
Costa is nevertheless not giving up and now chasing Moncoutié. They are ar about 3 kms from the top of the climb.
Sky is still dictating its tempo, and due to the fast start, a gurppetto has already formed including Cavendish, Hutarovich, Henderson and Dumoulin.
The composition of the head group is still not entirely clear. There may actually be 19 riders with Bouet (AG2R), Engoulvent (Saur), and the Argos-Shimano rider is not De Kort but Patrick Gretsch.
Sylvain Chavanel dropped. He is ill and taking antibiotics.
@inrng Fri, 13th Jul 2012 10:58:17
The groups are close together. Astana's Kiserlovski has jumped away on the front, while other riders have been caught by the bunch, including BMC's Burghardt.
The bunch has around 30 riders left, as they are one kilometre from the summit.
Kiserlovski takes the ten total points at the Cat. 1 KOM summit. His teammate Kessiakoff is still the mountains classification leader today.
Boasson Hagen takes the bunch over the summit 1'05" after the sole leader. Groups will now reform in the 20km-descent.
Moncoutié has crashed on the descent!
He's standing up again.
The bunch has gotten bigger again as many riders have caught up in the descent.
Kiserlovski has also been caught by the remainder of the breakaway.
There are 11 riders left over from the initial break:
Popovych (RadioShack), Gautier (Europcar), Koren (Liquigas), Millar (Garmin), Péraud, Bouet (AG2R), Edet (Cofidis), Gusev, Vorganov (Katusha), Sörensen (Saxo Bank) and Kiserlovski (Astana).
Boasson Hagen is still leading out the Sky train, which is at 1'20" of the leaders.
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) is still getting medical attention from the race doctor, he lost of a lot of skin along all the side, and it looks like his collarbone could be broken.
The Frenchman is now confirmed out of the race.
This is a big loss for Cofidis, also in view of the team's Vuelta objectives. If Moncoutié's collarbone is broken, he might not be able to be competitive again by the end of August.
There is a chase group between the bunch and the break: It's Chris Horner (RadioShack), Martinez and Perez (Euskaltel), Marcato (Vacansoleil) and Lund (Saxo Bank.)
They have now reached a rather flat part in Pontcharra. There are still about ten kilometres before the start of the next Cat. 1 climb, the Col du Granier (9.7 km @ 8,6%).
The race passes Chateau Bayard, which was built as of 1404...
Susan jumping in, so Hedi can eat lunch without getting crumbs all over her keyboard.
We now heat that the third goup now consists only of Horner and the two Euskaltels.
They will soon start up the second cat. 1 climb of the day, the Col du Granier. After that, the field will face only a cat.3 climb about 20 km from the finish.
We have our next abandon: Tom Veelers of Argos-Shimano is now out.
Only eight of the 22 teams are still full-strength: BMC, Europcar, Liquigas, Lotto Belisol, FDJ- Big Mat, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, Astana and Orica-GreenEdge.
Horner has dropped out of his group and back into the peloton, which is now at 2:25.
Of the teams who have lost riders, Raboank is the hardest hit. The Dutch team has lost five riders, leaving them only four in the race.
As the peloton heads up this next climb, Jeremy Roy of FDJ-Big Mat attacks. Christophe Kern of Europcar goes with him.
There are also three teams, which have each lost four riders: Euskaltel, Lampre and Vacansoleil.
Martinez has moved up to the lead group, while Perez has fallen back to the field.
Another handful of riders have jumped, including Jens Voigt, and are on their way up to the two Frenchmen.
Six Sky riders at the front of the peloton, calmly watching the proceedings.
We now have a group of six giving chase. Gathering the names now...
The peloton has moved up on this climb, and is now 1:49 back.
The six man chase group is Voigt, Roy, Kern, Feillu, Kashechkin and Levarlet.
More and more riders are falling off the back of the field, including Pinot and Gilbert.
The field is only 1:13 back now, and they are about to catch the small break group ahead of them.
And of course this climb is tearing apart the lead group as well.
Bouet and Gusev have just dropped back from the lead group.
The peloton has now caught that six man group, and the gap is down to 1:09.
Pinot is falling further back with every meter, but at least he has a teammate with him.
Hedwig is back from her lunch break. Sörensen is dopped out of the lead group...
Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) are also paying for their previous efforts and letting go from the tail end of the bunch. Polkadot jersey Fredrik Kessiakoff is with them.
The bunch is only 50 seconds away from the leaders. Voeckler is pacing for Rolland to catch up again, there are about eight riders with them including Kessiakoff an Valverde. They can still see the end of the bunch though.
Kiserlovski started the sprint just before the KOM summit, and takes the points in front of Péraud.
Now on the fast descent of the Col du Granier.
Jérémy Ro and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) have just passed the summit more than three minutes back. These two could be in deep trouble for the rest of the day...
Liquigas' Peter Sagan has attacked on the descent, joined by Taaramae (Cofidis). Other riders are also looking to drop the peloton around the yellow jersey.
Sagan is doing a hell of a job in the descent.
Sagan has dropped Taramaae and is trying to catch the leaders. The intermediate sprint is still 70 kilometres away, though!
Now he's sitting up, waiting for Taramaae and Chris Anker Sörensen.
Nerz and Koren (Liquigas), Taaramae (Cofidis), Sörensen (Saxo Bank), Intxausti (Euskaltel) and Sagan are together now chasing the lead group, and trying not to get caught again by the Sky train.
They are at 1'28" while the bunch is at 2'45" from the leaders.
Vorganov and Popovych were still in between the two groups and have now been caught by the Sagan group.
For sure, if the Sagan group can catch up with the leaders they would make a good little bunch to hold off the peloton until the finish.
Sagan is incredible. He has two teammates with him to try and get him at least to the intermediate sprint in front.
But in the back, Sky is getting a lot of help in the chase by the Orica-GreenEdge team... So much for the "easy" stage, Mr. Hinault!
So this is the race situation after the first two climbs, with 120 kilometres to go. We have a lead group:
Cyril Gautier (Team Europcar), David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale), Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Robert Kiserlovski (Pro Team Astana).
They are 2'15" in front of the peloton, but a chase group is only 1'30" behind:
Peter Sagan, Dominik Nerz and Kirstijan Koren (Liquigas-Cannondale), Gorka Insausti (Euskaltel), Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Christophe Kern (Europcar), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Nissan), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis).
The leaders are now at the feed zone in Saint Joseph de Rivière.
Back in the bunch, GreenEdge is really putting on a furious pace with five riders all chasing hard.
And the Australian squad is successful: they have caught the group around Sagan.
One break left up the road at 1'37".
Time for lunch...
The race is now driving through the Gorges de Crossey, massive rocks on both sides of the road. Magnificent secenry throughout the day today.
The gap between the leaders and the bunch is growing again rapidly. Up to 2'30" now.
Wiggins is happy, joking with his teammates while he has lunch.
With Sagan back in the bunch, the race situation is of course very different now. There are only five riders left up the road, who are no threat to Sky or GreenEdge. The quintet is definitely being let go now, as its advantage is already up to 4'45".
We can't see any other team chasing hard now to bring it back. The only difficulty left on the parcours is the Cat. 3 Côte d'Ardoix (5.9 km @ 3,4%) at 20 kms from the finish line, where a few other attacks could go.
The bunch is riding through the town of Voiron, cheered on by a lot of spectators. This is where the "Chartreuse" herbal liqueur is distilled, named after the mountain range the Tour has been driving through today.
Rumour has it Millar has picked this stage as an objective because it comes 45 years on the day that his compatriot Tom Simpson died on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, on July 13, 1967.
The peloton is definitely taking it easy since Sagan got caught. The break has extended its lead to 7'40". With little less than 100 kilometres left to go, the sprinters teams will have to organise a chase soon if they want to remain in contention for the stage.
Peloton appear to have mutually decided its officially a day off! #TDF
@gallagherbren Fri, 13th Jul 2012 13:20:23
Team Sky is waiting to see if another squad decides to organise a chase. The team directors will be arguing over the issue right now... The gap is up to ten minutes!
Nibali is getting his radio fixed at the team car, While Wiggins is at the very front of the bunch, still riding at a leisurely speed.
It look really good for the five-man breakaway. The bunch is 11'45" back with 87 kilometres to go.
Chavanel is sitting beside his team- and roommate Pineau in the bunch and is seeing his chance for a late attack going down the drain.
Sky is setting the tempo, no other team has been found to take over.
The gruppetto, including world champ Cavendish, is meanwhile back inside the bunch.
In the break, Millar is asking for his team car. The riders are now moving along pretty flat roads. As they drive through the villages, they are greeted by the spectators alongside the Départementale.
There seems to be very little or no wind at all in the valley, so the conditions are the same for the break as for the bunch.
Five clicks to go until the intermediate sprint.
Millar passes the sprint in front. It's located in the middle of nowhere, not even in a village.
But Sagan, back in the bunch, is eeing the sixth place at the sprint. He's followed by Matt Goss (GreenEdge). Sixth spot is still worth ten points for the green jersey.
The gap has barely come down, it is still over 11 minutes, so the lead goup is pretty safe.
Here they come to the sprint.
Goss won the sprint ahead of Greipel and Sagan. First time the German also mingles in the intermediate sprints.
David Millar told me this morning that a break would stay away and he'd try to be in it. To be fair, 50 riders were probably thinking same.
@friebos Fri, 13th Jul 2012 14:19:24
Nice training ride there for the bunch. Wiggins is in a small group far behind the peloton, coming back in the team car caravan. He's not worried about any attacks...
Much has been said about Sky's performance yesterday, and Froome's apparent superiority in comparison with Wiggins. For those who have been thinking that the Brit already had a firm grip on the yellow jersey before the Tour even entered its final week, this team configuration will at least add new spice to the race.
We are still driving through large, flat fields of wheat and corn, but the final Cat. 3 climb of Côte d'Ardoix (5.9 km @ 3,4%) starts in about 20 kilometres.
It's going to be a tactical finish if Kiserlovski, Péraud or Martinez attack on the climb. What will Millar do? He'll be a marked man in view of the last 19, flat kilometres to the finish line in Annonay Davézieux.
Bernie Eisel continues to lead out the bunch. A lot of riders will be grateful for the easy pace today in order to recover a bit.
This mroning before the start, Eisel tweeted: "Friday 13th! Drug test at 7am! Light rain! Two Cat. 1 climbs in the first 80k's! I hope you guys had and have a better start in the day!"
He seems to be OK now.
Millar could add a fourth Tour de France stage victory to his palmarès today. Or will Europcar's Gautier make it the third win for his team in a row at this Tour?
In this group normally speaking Kiserlovski would be the strongest up the hill today. But he may be a bit tired from yesterday.
@Vaughters Fri, 13th Jul 2012 14:55:27
And Millar could be the one to chase him down again in the last, flat part. For someone else to win the sprint?
The race is now turning south alongside the Rhone river, which it will cross in Andancette to enter the Ardèche region.
The breakaway is riding through the village of Sarras. In a few clicks, they'll be headed uphill, while the bunch now crosses the old hanging bridge over the Rhone river.
The leaders are tackling the 5km-climb now. Average gradient is 3.4 percent, so it's not very steep.
No attacks at this point...
At this pace, the climb doesn't seem to be challenging enough for anyone to try and make a move.
The five riders are still together as the summit is two kilometres away.
Back in the bunch, a Lotto train has formed alongside the Sky lead-out.
The crowds on this climb are massive, though; it's nice to see so many people have made it to the roadside once again.
Kiserlovski takes the points at the KOM summit.
They are on a plateau now, there is no descent as such after this climb. Within the last five kilometres, the stage profile shows a small drop and another very short uphill part but we don't know if this represents any attack opportunity.
Needless to say, the peloton is riding up the Côte d'Ardoix with seemingly no effort...
Less than 14 kilometres to go for the leaders. Four out of the five riders will be dissappointed after having made so many efforts on this stage.
No-one of the five has any particularly fast finishing speed that we know of. If it comes to a sprint, it will really be about who has the most energy left, and the best tactical position to take it to the finish.
The leaders come through the 10km-mark. Martinez at the front but all five are still taking their turns as they should.
Martinez shakes his thighs. They're getting ready and starting to seriously look at each other. Allies become enemies...
They are rdiding downhill now, so the short climb should be coming up very soon.
Here it is. Martinez attacks! And Millar marks him. All together.
They slow down, look at each other. Millar leads out. Kiserlovski attacks and Péraud chases him down again.
Millar at the front again. This is such a tactical finish. Kiserlovski goes again!
But Millar takes the others up to him again. Péraud tries his luck now and gets a gap together with Millar.
Péraud is also an excellent time triallist, just like Millar.
The Scot leads.
The trio behind is trying to come back, but the gap is substantial.
Millar still leads Péraud, now the Frenchman takes over.
Péraud is a former mountainbiker, so he may have more explosiveness in the end...
Gautier is trying hard to come back, but they are too far away.
Finish line! Millar leads Péraud.
Péraud starts his sprint at with 250 metres to go, but Millar finally has more strength and pulls through to take the stage!
Millar gets his fourth Tour de France stage win, and we can see he's exhausted.
The bunch now comes up to the finishing kilometres. The crowds cheer them on as they finish up a rather leisurely day, at least for the last 100 kilometres.
Sagan is towards the front of the bunch though, as there are still some points for the green jersey at stake.
1 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Sharp 5:42:46
2 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
3 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:00:05
4 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:06
5 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team
Wggins leads the bunch into the last roundabout before the finishing straight.
Goss wins again in front of Sagan, who's not amused as the Orica rider deviated slightly from his line towards the left, somewhat disturbing the points classification leader.
Thanks for having joined us again today. Tomorrow's stage 13 to Cap d'Agde will be another opportunity for the sprinters to battle it out, and we'll very porbably see more of Sagan vs. Goss!
Here are the brief results of stage 12:
1 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Sharp 5:42:46
2 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
3 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:00:05
4 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
5 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team
6 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:07:53
7 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
8 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:07:54
9 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
10 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
General classification after stage 12
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 54:34:33
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:02:05
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:23
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:03:19
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:04:48
6 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:06:15
7 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:06:57
8 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:07:30
9 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:08:31
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:08:51