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.
115km remaining from 209km
Decuninck continues to chase the break to defend Alaphilippe's yellow jersey.
After 80km of racing, the gap is at 4:10.
The average speed so far is a painful 45.89km/h!
108km remaining from 209km
Yves Lampaert and Elia Viviani are doing the hard work for Alaphilippe, with Team Ineos lined out behind the boys in blue.
102km remaining from 209km
We're nearing the intermediate sprint of the stage, where we expect Sagan and his sprint rivals to fight for the points.
After that they will perhaps sit up, leaving the better climbers to fight for a chance of the stage victory.
97km remaining from 209km
Romain Bardet is chasing back to the peloton after a puncture. He does not seem worried but is keen to get back into the pack.
91km remaining from 209km
The 42-rider break continues to push on and work together.
They lead the peloton by 4:50 now, as Deceuninck continues the chase behind.
At the back of the peloton, Dan Martin and Mikel Landa return to the pack. They will soon have to be near the front for the climbs.
86km remaining from 209km
Giacomo Nizzolo tried to fight on bing involved in a crash yesterday but has now been forced to climb off.
The Dimension Data sprinter finished in the top ten three times.
21 year-old Jasper Philipsen of UAE did not start today's stage after his team decided he was fatigued and had raced enough.
Iñigo San Millán, (Head of Performance at UAE said:
"It's better for him to stop now and recover and let his body adapt to be able to come back at an even higher level in the future."
Philipsen was the youngest rider in the Tour at 21. Egan Bernal now has that honour. He is 22.
Philipsen posted a brief message on social media.
"Yesterday was my last stage @LeTour. It was an amazing experience and I want to thank the whole @TeamUAEAbuDhabi for this chance. Now it’s time to take a rest and prepare the rest of the season. Thanks for all the messages of support."
81km remaining from 209km
We have another abandon: Rohan Dennis.
That is a surprise because he went on the attack at the start of the stage and was the favourite for Friday's Pau time trial.
We'll bring you more info on Dennis' abandon as soon as possible.
80km remaining from 209km
It's time for the intermediate sprint.
Oss leads it out, with the sprinters behind him.
Sagan goes first from behind Oss and holds off Colbrelli to score 20 points.
77km remaining from 209km
Kristoff was third. Sagan started the day with 257 points and so is now on 277.
Colbrelli scored 17 points and so moved passed Viviani into second place. However he is on a distant 191 points.
75km remaining from 209km
After finishing second to Peter Sagan in the intermediate sprint at Bagnères-de-Luchon, Sonny Colbrelli keeps going.
Sagan joins him to create an interesting move within the break but then sits up. Alexander Kristoff is still there.
Colbrelli is on the lower slopes of the Col de Peyresourde. This is going to hurt!
These are the 42 riders in the break. It will be interesting to see how many now sit up as the mountains begin.
Peter Sagan, Gregor Mühlberger, Daniel Oss and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Oliver Naesen, Tony Gallopin and Matthias Fränk (Ag2r La Mondiale), Sonny Colbrelli, Iván García Cortina and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Imanol Erviti (Movistar Team), Pello Bilbao (Astana), Dylan Groenewegen and Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Alberto Bettiol, Simon Clarke and Tom Scully (EF Education First), Matteo Trentin and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Greg Van Avermaet and Serge Pauwels (CCC Team), Rui Costa and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Fabio Felline and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Matthews, Nikias Arndt, Cees Bol and Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb), Pierre-Luc Périchon and Julien Simon (Cofidis), Tiesj Benoot, Roger Kluge and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Energie), Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) and Kévin Ledanois (Arkéa-Samsic).
71km remaining from 209km
The 7% gradient of the Col de Peyresourde is starting to hurt.
Max Richeze is one of the first to be dropped after setting the pace for Deceuninck for much of the day.
Riders are also falling out of the break. Tom Scully of EF is distanced.
70km remaining from 209km
Lillian Calmejane of Total has pushed on alone on the climb. He leads the remains of the 42-break by 45 now.
Calmejane hails from Albi and so no-doubt enjoyed the rest day in the city.
This is a screen grab of Calmejane, showing the time gaps.
Ouch! A Bora soigneur falls over and hits his head after reaching into the break to hand over a bidon.
Sagan is 2:00 back from the break as Matthews lead the chase of Calmejane. Matthews is riding for Nico Roche, who could win the stage.
67km remaining from 209km
Deceuninck have moved off the front now, with the GC teams lined out on the front.
The Col de Peyresourde is starting to hurt.
65km remaining from 209km
3km to the summit of the Col de Peyresourde for Calmejane. He's suffering under the sun but leads by 30 seconds.
The switchbacks of the final 3km are packed with fans.
63km remaining from 209km
Julian Alaphilippe is near the front now, his yellow jersey shining bright in the sun.
He is determined to keep it until Friday's time trial.
63km remaining from 209km
Calmejane is caught by Tim Wellens just as he reaches the top of the Col de Peyresourde.
The Belgian takes the KOM points to extend his lead in the competition.
Simon Clarke was up there with Wellens. He's off the front on the descent.
Here are the points over the top of the Peyresourde...
1. Tim Wellens, 10 points
2. Serge Pauwels, 8
3. Lilian Calmejane, 6
4. Tiesj Benoot, 4
5. Simon Clarke, 2
6. Matthias Frank, 1
55km remaining from 209km
The peloton crests the top of the climb now. They're 5:50 down on Clarke. The break are 20 seconds down, while Sagan is almost back with the peloton.
Bahrain-Merida have just released a mysterious tweet regarding Rohan Dennis leaving the race.
"Our priority is the welfare of all our riders so will launch an immediate investigation but will not be commenting further until we have established what has happened to Rohan Dennis.
"Meantime we continue to support our riders who are mid-race."
Meanwhile, Clarke is 50 seconds up on the break now. He's really pushing on alone here.
Some reports from French broadcaster France TV Sport suggest that Dennis has disappeared, and the Bahrain-Merida's team staff don't know about his abandon.
Take it with a pinch of salt for now, but this is a strange story.
45km remaining from 209km
Caleb Ewan has crashed on the descent of the Peyresourde.
It's a high-speed descent, so let's hope the stage 11 winner is ok.
Clarke's advantage is up to 1:20 now. The peloton has caught Sagan and they're over six minutes down.
40km remaining from 209km
Clarke is climbing the Horquette d'Ancizan now.
Dennis is apparently safe on the team bus at the moment, according to a reporter from Dutch broadcaster NOS.
Matteo Trentin has left the break behind, heading out in search of Clarke.
39km remaining from 209km
Guillaume Martin, Wanty team leader, takes a bike change.
Here's our story on Rohan Dennis' abandon.
38km remaining from 209km
As the peloton starts the Horquette d'Ancizan, Team Ineos hit the front.
Simon Clarke (EF Education First) continues out front alone.
It's his birthday today. He's 33!
37km remaining from 209km
Behind him the break is splitting, Simon Yates is on the move.
He is the big favourite to win the stage.
Clarke is trying to gain as much time as he can on the lower slopes of the climb before Simon Yates and others come after him. It's a smart move.
Crash at the back of the bunch. But everyone gets going again. But it will be hard to chase back on.
35km remaining from 209km
Matteo Trentin is riding for Mitchelton teammate Yates and himself.
If he makes it over the top of the Horquette d'Ancizan, he can fight for the win in the sprint.
34km remaining from 209km
4km from the summit. Yates tries to jump across to Trentin.
33km remaining from 209km
Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) joins Yates at the front. They're trying to shake out riders from the break and gain time before the 30km descent to the finish.
The chasers are just 15 seconds back. Gallopin and Frank are there for AG2R. There's Roche and German champion Max Schachmann.
Pello Bilbao was with them but has jumped across to Yates and Mühlberger.
Though Yates kicks to drop him again.
30km remaining from 209km
Yates and Mühlberger are in the final kilometre of the Horquette d'Ancizan.
The chasers are losing ground, with Bilbao at 10 seconds.
The chasers are at 50 seconds, as Bilbao closes the gap on the first part of the descent.
It's very technical on the first part of the descent to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
28km remaining from 209km
Behind the GC peloton is 7:45 behind and so still on the climb.
Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle are on the front for Ineos, an indication of the pace of the group.
23km remaining from 209km
Valverde leads the peloton over the top of the climb, some 8:00 back on the attackers.
As things stand, Alaphilippe's yellow jersey looks safe for another day.
18km remaining from 209km
Ineos has at least six rider at the front of the peloton.
14km remaining from 209km
We have a pursuit out on the road, with 8 riders chasing Yates, Bilbao and Mühlberger.
However the trio leads by 1:20 and so could fight for the win.
Team Ineos is riding tempo, so the gap is up to 9:00 now.
7km remaining from 209km
The valley road to Bagneres is flat now and so we're set for a three-rider sprint.
Will it be Yates, Bilbao or Mühlberger?
The finish includes a sharp left turn at 750m to go and a sweeping curve left with 200m to go.
It will probably be vital to enter the final corner in first place.
2km remaining from 209km
The trio are watching each other in the final kilometres.
1km remaining from 209km
Here we go. last kilometre!
Bilbao leads it out.
Now Mühlberger is on the front. This is like a track sprint.
Simon Yates goes long and wins!
Yates made sure he was first into the last turn and then managed to hold off Bilbao on his left.
Mühlberger was stuck behind Yates along the barriers.
Bnoot finishes fourth alone. The others were just behind him.
Team Ineos is lined out on the front of the peloton, with all 8 riders leading race leader Alaphilippe.
The GC riders are 9 minutes back, with the time limit at over 50 minutes.
A replay shows how Yates just held off Bilbao in the sprint. It was close but the Briton just held on to win by half a wheel or so.
Here comes the GC group. They finish at 9:38 and so Julian Alaphilippe keeps the yellow jersey for another day.
Simon Yates admits he had been saving energy so far in the Tour but he was worried about the sprint.
This is the top ten on the stage.
1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 4:57:53
2 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team
3 Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
4 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:01:28
5 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
6 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
9 Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First
10 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo.
Matteo Trentin wins the most aggressive prize but it is of little reward for the European champion, who perhaps hoped to try to win the stage.
Simon Yates gets the cheers on the podium as the gruppetto finishes, with Oss, Nibali and others in there.
Kristoff 'wins' the sprint ahead of Morkov in the gruppetto. Pity they finished 35 mins down on Yates.
This is the latest GC after today's stage.
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 52:26:09
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos 0:01:12
3 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos 0:01:16
4 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 0:01:27
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:01:45
6 Enric Mas (Spa) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:01:46
7 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:01:47
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:04
9 Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:09
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:02:33.
Here's the first image of Simon Yates winning stage 12. He seems happy.
There is still no explanation why Rohan Dennis quit the Tour mid-stage.
The Bahrain-Merida directeur sportif avoided going into detail, claiming they had still to speak to Dennis.
This image shows the emotions, the joy and the disappointment, of the three-rider sprint today.
Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) spoke briefly after the stage.
“We were expecting maybe some attacks on the climb, especially with the gap there being quite small at four minutes, but everyone rode pretty steady and nothing really happened, and we were really happy with that," he said.
"I think everyone knows it’s a big three days now, so people were probably just waiting to get to the finish."
“I’ll do [a recon of Friday’s time trial course] in the morning, but I’ve seen it three times already. I like it. It’s fast and it should be hard, but, yeah, a big day."
Thomas added, when speaking to Eurosport.
"It’s always a bit strange when you don’t really go, when you ride at that sort of pace that’s fairly hard but it’s kind of just getting through.
"I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s a big day."
Thomas added, talking about the long first part of the Tour.
"It’s been quite hard actually, just waiting and waiting. Tomorrow I’ll get to go all in. We’ll see."
This is Geraint Thomas close up.
Julian Alaphilippe was happy to pull on another yellow jersey.
Race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was tired after the stage but talked about the emotions of wearing yellow in the Pau time trial.
"I had a quiet day but it’s still incredible to still have the yellow jersey and so will start last, in yellow, in the time trial. Whatever the outcome and final result, it’ll be a special moment," he said after stage 12.
"I know the TT course, I’ve looked at it. It goes up and down quite for most of the 27km with an 8km final part where you have to go all out on the flat. It’s a hard course and technical. I just hope to enjoy it while suffering more than usual. The jersey will give me extra motivation."
Our man Alasdair Fotheringham has tried to understand why Rohan Dennis quit the Tour de France.
He got these words from Bahrain-Merida DS Gorazd Stangelj.
“We are also confused. Let’s say I am disappointed with what happened with Rohan today because we expected a big effort from him tomorrow,” Stangelj said after reaching the team bus with the race car.
“It was his decision to stop at the feed zone. We try to speak with him. We stop with the car and try to find a solution—what is going on—he said I don’t want to talk and he abandon the race.”
Stangelj said Dennis’s decision to abandon had nothing to do with his physical condition or health.
“For sure it has nothing to do with his physical condition,” Stangelj said.
Stangelj revealed he drove past the feed zone and saw Dennis’s bike near a team car. He was unable to turn the car around and drive back to the feed zone, so called the soigneur team car to speak to Dennis.
“He answer and said ‘I don’t want to talk right now,’ Stangelj said.
To read our initial story on Rohan Dennis' surprise abandon, click here.
It's been quite a day at the Tour - there's never a quiet day at the Tour - but to fully understand what happened in the race, click here to read our full stage report.
For the initial reaction from Julian Alaphilippe, Geraint Thomas. Gregor Mühlberger and others, click here.
There is no women's Tour de France but the women’s WorldTour one-day race La Course by Le Tour de France will be held on July 19 in Pau, moving away from the route that boasted a mountainous race to Le Grand-Bornand this year to a hilly circuit race that is more suited to the puncheurs of the peloton.
The women will race along a circuit race, held on a version of the 27km time trial course used for stage 13 of the men's Tour de France. They will complete five laps of the circuit for a total of 121km.
The route will include climbs over the Côte d’Esquillot and Cite de Gelos, making the circuit a challenge but one that could suit the one-day Classics specialists and possibly even the sprinters.
In 2018, the event returned to a one-day format, a road race linking Annecy and to a finish in Le Grand-Bornand, won by Annemiek van Vleuten in a showdown against runner-up Anna van der Breggen.
15 teams were given automatic invitations. They include Boels Dolmans, Canyon-SRAM, Bigla, Ale Cipollini, CCC-Liv, FDJ-Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Movistar, Park Hotel Valkenburg, Sunweb, Tibco-SVB, Virtu Cycling, Trek-Segafredo, Valcar Cylance and WNT-Rotor.
There are also five teams that have earned wildcard invitations that include Astana, BTC City Ljubljana, Cogeas Mettler Look, Lotto Soudal Ladies and Rally UHC Cycling.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the race on Friday.
Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) has a lot of pressure on her shoulders ahead of La Course by Le Tour de France.
Her team is relying on her to bring her dominant form from the Giro Rosa, where she won four of the 10 stages, to the new puncheur-style one-day race in Pau on Friday.
Click here for the full story.
The Tour de France swapped fields of sunflowers for the Pyrenees today. For a full photo gallery of the stage, click here.
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