Bonjour and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 12 of the Tour de France.
Hello from Toulouse. The minutes are counting down to the start of stage 12.
It's time to head into the Pyrenees for the first high mountain stage of this year's Tour de France.
We're just a few minutes from the roll out. All the riders have signed on. We're ready to rock and roll in the Pyrenees.
The riders are lined-up under cloudy skies, with stage 11 winner Caleb Ewan and yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe the last to take his place up front in the special front grid reserved for the jersey wearers and winners.
The stage started in the shadows of the Toulouse FC stadium. The riders face an 11km-neutralised sector before the flag drops and the racing begins.
The stage is 209.5km long and so the riders face close to 220km in the saddle.
Stage 12 is the first of four crucial stages for the riders fighting for overall victory and the yellow jersey.
This opening day in the Pyrenees is, as is often said, one of those days where the race can't be won but could certainly be lost if a contender suffers un jour sans, a day when the resources in a rider's legs don't match the strength of his ambition on the first day of climbing.
The stage rises gently for the first three hours and so we can expect a high-speed fight to get into the break of the day.
The GC riders may be happy for a break to stay away, especially with the time trial to follow the next day. But the organisers have offered a little reward for any GC favourites who do ride aggressively by locating a point-bonus at the summit of the final ascent, the Hourquette d'Ancizan.
Between the spa towns of Luchon and Bagnères-de-Bigorre, there are two first-category ascents, commencing with the very familiar Peyresourde.
The fast descent from its summit leads quickly onto the final test, the seldom-used and beautiful Hourquette d'Ancizan, which is consistently steep over its opening four kilometres, the gradient easing in its second half.
The riders are lined out alongside and behind the red race directors car.
4km to the official start.
From the CN blimp we can see Rohan Dennis, Peter Sagan and Luke Rowe up front.
It is currently 22C in Toulouse but we understand it is raining at the finish and misty on the climbs.
On Wednesday Caleb Ewan won the sprint stage to Toulouse, taking his first ever Tour stage win.
Click here to read our full stage report, results and see our huge photo gallery of the action.
The flag drops, they're off!
As expected, the attacks come thick and fast as riders try to get in the break of the day.
Thomas de Gendt is dragging the peloton along.
The first attacks are chased down, with even Sagan joining the early action.
The intermediate sprint comes after 130km but before the mountains, could Sagan and Bora be hoping and riding so he can score more green jersey points.
198km remaining from 209km
The speed is still high, with the peloton chasing down another attack.
All the jersey wearers are up front, Sagan is defending his green points jersey.
Sagan opens a gap alone. He's clearly trying to get in the break to score some points in the intermediate sprint.
188km remaining from 209km
Another group tries their luck. Mohoric is there for Bahrain. This is their third attempt to get away today.
Now Lennard Kämna of Sunweb goes off the front.
181km remaining from 209km
All change and more attacks.
We can see Greg van Avermaet up front and aggressive now.
Matteo Trentin and Alberto Bettiol are also up front, trying to get in the break.
174km remaining from 209km
Here goes Sagan again!
The peloton is lined out due to the high speed, with a lot of riders hoping the elastic will soon snap so the pace will ease.
167km remaining from 209km
The elastic is about to snap.
It's a big break but Ineos are trying to block the road and stop a chase.
Wow! There are 30 or so riders in the break.
165km remaining from 209km
The peloton has eased up and some riders are taking a natural break.
The break already has 1:00.
162km remaining from 209km
Deceuninck-QuickStep have come to the front to start the chase and defence of Alaphilippe's yellow jersey.
However there are 42 (!) riders in the break!
Today sees the reversal of the work order, with the lead out men Max Richeze and sprinter Elia Viviani having to do the early work and lead the chase.
We can confirm that Peter Sagan is in the 42-rider attack, as are rival sprinters Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews.
We can expect them to fight for the intermediate sprint points and then ease up.
155km remaining from 209km
Deceuninck-QuickStep are riding steady, with the break at 3:15.
Greg van Avermaet (CCC) is the closest to Alaphilippe in the GC but he is 14:25 down.
The aggressive start saw the riders cover 52.7km/h for the opening 25km.
The average speed for the opening 60km was 49km/h.
150km remaining from 209km
The riders can see the Pyrenees if they look upwards, first they face a ride into the foothills until Bagneres-de-Luchon and the intermediate sprint, then the climbing begins.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) is first to the top of the Cat 4 to extend his lead in the polka-dot KOM competition.
He will be looking to take more points later on the two Cat 1 climbs and even target the stage victory.
140km remaining from 209km
The Tour finally heads into the Pyrenees today and Dan Martin is very happy to finally swap chainrings.
He won the stage to Bagneres-de-Bigorre in 2013 and spoke to CN's Barry Ryan about his race tactics and ambitions.
After 11 days of flat racing, Martin is only 57 seconds down on Geraint Thomas.
Click here to read the Dan Martin interview.
132km remaining from 209km
Some riders are playing smart and missing turns in the break but they continue to lead the Deceuninck-lead peloton by 3:45.
Today's entry to the Pyrenees is the first of four days in the area.
To prepare for the important days ahead, check out our special preview by Patrick Fletcher. He speaks to Jim Ochowicz and Adam Yates who's twin brother Simon is in the 42-rider break of the day.
Click here to read the full Pyrenee preview.