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Tour de France stage 12 LIVE: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nîmes

The Tour de France heads south with a flat stage to Nîmes

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Stage 12 already! How time flies when there's a bike race on.

It's flat day today at the Tour de France, which most riders will be thankful for after their double ascent of Mont Ventoux yesterday.

Racing gets underway at 13.30 local time, or 12.30 for those in the UK.

Here's the profile for today's stage:

Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2021

(Image credit: ASO)

We are looking at this as a potential day for the sprinters, but there are multiple teams out there who will be very keen to get a win from the break.

Also, that final climb before heading into Nîmes could be a leg snapper for some of the more pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish, who could equal Eddy Merckx's record today with his 34th Tour stage win.

The report coming in from our man on the ground, Jonny Long, is that the wind is very high today. 

The race had to delay the start of the publicity caravan by 10 minutes earlier this morning due to the wind.

This could cause carnage in the peloton and possibly splits right from the flag drop. Will this be a day where we see Tadej Pogačar lose time?

Head over to our Twitter page and vote for who you think will take today's stage

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Some reading for today:

Five talking points from stage 11 of the Tour de France 2021

Tadej Pogačar admits he ‘cracked a little bit’ on Mont Ventoux

Tour de France: Luke Rowe 'hit a wall' on the first big climb of stage 11 before missing time cut

Watch: Mark Cavendish tips his helmet to Tom Simpson as he battles Mont Ventoux

Mark Cavendish survives time cut while Luke Rowe eliminated on stage 11 of Tour de France 2021

'He just needs everything to align’: Nacer Bouhanni is the second sprint star close to making a comeback at the Tour de France

Tour de France 2021: Wout van Aert says Mont Ventoux stage might be his best ever victory

How do Tour de France time cuts work? 

Peter Sagan does not start today.

"There’s nothing I can do but take some rest and get better. If you can't move your leg, where can you go?"

Read more: Peter Sagan has abandoned the Tour de France 2021

Peter Sagan abandons the Tour de France 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We have just started the neutral start for stage 12 of the Tour de France. Interestingly, Cavendish has not gone for the skinsuit. Could that mean he is not riding for the sprint today?

We are racing! A very short neutral start and we immediately get attacks but the race seems to be controlled for the moment.

Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck - Quick-Step seem very keen to split the race immediately in the crosswinds.

We already have groups out of the back. I have a feeling that we will not see a breakaway for quite a long time.

A group of about 25 riders have been caught out as the pace if being hammered along by Nils Politt at the moment. 153km to go. 

Mark Cavendish is well placed towards the front of the race. More echelons start to form. I haven't seen Pogačar yet but I would have thought he'd be well placed. 

Pogačar is definitely well placed and is looking very calm for the moment. 

Geraint Thomas has been one of the riders caught out. Looked like Michael Matthews may have been in that back group as well. 

The wind angle has changed again with more of a tailwind as the race doesn't look to be splitting as of yet.

Michael Mørkøv one of the riders caught out. We now see some attacks with Benoit Cosnefroy, Kenny Elissonde and a couple of other riders as they look to form the break with 148km to go.

Too many riders joined the break and it has been pulled back again as Brent Van Moer shows himself for the first time since stage four.

Alaphilippe, Mohorič and Cort tried to get up the road but that's pulled back again. No-one getting anywhere.

146km to go, Thomas' group at 26 seconds with the last group on the road including Richie Porte at 43 seconds. 

Theuns and Swift attack nect with Alaphilippe, Politt, Van Moer, Greipel and Henao leading with a six man group led by Cort chasing it. One more man attacks the peloton but this looks like its getting away. 

144km to go.

More moves starting to kick out of the peloton and the pace could rocket again as we're about to hit more crosswind. 

The peloton looks so much smaller now after this race has seen so many leave due to illness, injury and missing the time limit.

The break only has 21 seconds of a gap and looking through the group we can see some extremely powerful riders such as Stefan Küng and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Philippe Gilbert now leading the peloton as Pogačar is now not very well placed at all. 

It looks like the peloton is content with the break at the moment with 13 riders up the front. Alaphilippe will do no work at all but the break has gone!

The peloton has sat up. 136km to go with 1-22 to the now fully formed break. 

The break of the day:

André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team TotalEnergies
Stefan Bissegger (Sui) EF Education-Nippo
Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
Imanol Erviti (Esp) Movistar Team
Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange
Sergio Henao (Col) Team Qhubeka-NextHash

Henao is best placed at 50-57 behind Pogačar.

The pace has completely settled down in the peloton as Chris Froome announces a natural break point for the bunch.

There are 127km to go until the finish in Nîmes and the break have an advantage of five minutes with UAE-Team Emirates leading the peloton.

The breakaway have a lead of over seven minutes now, and the peloton will have to be on guard to not let it stretch too far if they want a chance at winning the stage. The strong winds in southern France right now can split the race into multiple echelons, as we've already seen at the beginning of the day, and that would work in favour of the break.

Mark Cavendish  stopped at the side of the road and received assistance from one of the Deceuninck - Quick Step staff. There didn't appear to be any obvious problems and after a few minutes the green jersey rode back to the peloton.

This was how the peloton looked as they navigated the first few kilometres of today's stage. As ever, France putting on its best show.

Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty)

Interesting information from Bradley Wiggins who is riding on the back of a motorbike for Eurosport. The 2012 Tour champion said that Cavendish "was rattled this morning" because ASO, the Tour organisers, didn't give him a green skinsuit, the aerodynamic clothing that the 36-year-old prefers to wear on sprint stages. 

A lead of nine minutes for the very strong and experienced breakaway indicates that the peloton wouldn't be averse to letting the escapees win. André Greipel could be looking at a 12th Tour stage victory, while Julian Alaphilippe a seventh.

The peloton is no stranger to Nîmes, today's finishing city. The Tour has visited 18 times in the past and the last time, in 2019, it was Caleb Ewan who was victorious. The city also hosted the start of the 2017 Vuelta a España.

And the lead keeps getting bigger: pushing 10 minutes for the break with 94km left to race. Maybe the sprinters won't get their day in Nîmes. 

A reminder that while today's route isn't totally flat, there are no big climbs that should catch anyone out. The day's only categorised climb, a cat 4 effort, comes shortly and the break have a very large gap of 10:30 with 85km to race.

It is Nils Politt who takes the sprint atop the category four climb, Côte du Belvédère de Thataux. The Bora-hansgrohe rider takes two points and Stefan Küng of Groupama-FDJ one. Nairo Quintana is the King of the Mountains leader.

70km left to race and the breakaway have an advantage of 11:30. Who from the breakaway will attack first and try to form a race-winning select group? It's doubtful that they'll take André Greipel, the perceived fastest man in the break, to the finish line.

So here is a quick update of the race, the 13 man break has 12-15 over the peloton. Nobody is out of the back either which is very good to see. 

Hopefully, today will be a calmer day for some of the riders trying to battle through the day with illness of injury. 

60km to go for the leaders as UAE Team Emirates leads the way in the peloton. 

UAE Team Emirates on the radio as we may be heading to potential crosswinds yet again. Ineos and EF all in attendance at the front too as the peloton look nervous. No sign of the wind just yet though. 

Ooh Nils Politt attacks from the break with Connor Swift. 49km to go. 

Mezgec joins the duo up front.

Bissegger next to bridge 

Attack brought back and the break is all together again. Attack after attack now. 43km to go with 12-48 gap to the peloton.

Sweeny attacks! Küng, Erviti and Politt join him. Mezgec kicking across with Bissegger and the chase is on behind.

Politt, Erviti, Sweeny and Küng have 30 seconds on the chasers and Wiggins thinks this lead group has gone! 

We're inside the last 30km of today's race and Kung, Sweeny, Politt and Erviti still have 30 seconds on their former break companions, it's still touch and go whether they'll hold this all the way when they begin to attack each other

Meanwhile, 14 minutes down the road UAE are doing their best to keep Pogacar safe in the peloton

The second chase of nine riders is lacking cohesion in the chase but they've knocked off four seconds from the advantage of the lead group. The leading four are working well together though so hold the advantage still heading towards the final 25km

The leaders cross the intermediate sprint without a thought of any of the points. The camera shot from head on makes it look like the chasers are not that far off catching them, but we're now back up to 30 seconds

There's a small unclassified climb still to come in around 10km before the finish which could be ideal for one of these four riders to try and go clear. We're bound to see attacks within the final 20km as each of these riders will want to reach the finish alone

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There's some rainfall now on the roads heading towards Nîmes, with things still relatively calm in the peloton

The gap between the leading group and the chasers is up to 33 seconds now, so it's looking good for the four with 21km to go.

None of these riders in the leading group have won a stage of the Tour before, so each of them will be desperate to get this victory on their palmarès

Stefan Kung came close of course on the stage five time trial, being beaten by 19 seconds by the current race leader Tadej Pogacar

Sweeny just briefly gaps his comrades there as the roll along at 65kph, but they're back together and still working well as the gap goes up to 40 seconds

The kilometres are flying by here thanks to this tailwind. We'll soon be at this unclassified climb that could see attacks

It's done and dusted pretty much for the nine riders behind unless someone can do something special - the gap is out to a minute now with 15km to go

On this unclassified climb now and Kung is the first to be dropped with Erviti also gone

Politt is just holding the wheel of Sweeny who is looking strong on this ascent

Erviti makes it back to Sweeny and Politt, with the gap out to 1-04 despite attacks from the nine-man chasing group

Kung is at 30 seconds now and it looks like he'll be out of contention with the three out front working together again following this climb

Politt attacks!

Sweeny and Erviti can't follow and the German rider has a decent gap

Politt has 11 seconds here on Sweeny and Erviti with 9km to go. The nine man group is now at 1-25, with Kung somewhere in between

Politt looks pained as he powers along at 50kph. He's won the combativity award for the day, but he'll get much more if he can hold on for 7.5km more

15 minutes back down the road the peloton is all together and looks set to arrive at the finish without incident

It's 19 seconds back to Sweeny and Erviti now and it looks like Politt will hold on to this with 6km to go

This will be Politt's second ever professional win having taken a stage of the Deutschland Tour in 2018. He's had some impressive results since then, including second at Paris-Roubaix in 2019, but this will be is crowning glory so far if he holds on for 4 more kilometres 

This will be a great result for Bora-Hansgrohe too after a tough Tour so far, with Peter Sagan abandoning the race this morning with knee pain

Approaching the final kilometre now and Politt will have time to celebrate with a 27 second gap to the chasing pair

Nils Politt wins stage 12 of the 2021 Tour de France!

Erviti gets the better of Sweeny in the sprint for second to take his best ever Tour de France stage finish

Here's the top-10 on the stage:

1. Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-22-12
2. Imanol Erviti (Esp) Movistar Team, at 31 seconds
3. Harry Sweeny (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
4. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-06
5. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange
6. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7. André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation
8. Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
9. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
10. Sergio Henao (Col) Qhubeka-NextHash, all at same time

We're still waiting for the peloton to arrive here, but it looks like there won't be any action of note and the GC will remain the same heading into another flat stage tomorrow

The peloton crosses the line 15-53 down on Politt and there's a small fight amongst the sprinters for the three remaining points in the green jersey competition available on the line. Mark Cavendish wins that sprint easily to extend his lead ever so slightly in green

It's as you were for the GC then:

1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 47-06-50
2. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education-Nippo, at 5-18
3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-32
4. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-33
5. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r-Citroën, at 5-58
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6-16
7. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 6-30
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 7-11
9. Giullaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 9-29
10. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 10-28

Here's that little sprint for three points:

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It's an impressive win for Politt today but it was quite an uneventful but a fast one. Average speed was a scintillating 47.3kmh 

Full report fro today's stage:

Nils Politt powers to stage 12 victory at Tour de France as Pogačar keeps yellow

Nils Politt wins stage 12 of the 2021 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Of course here are the all important talking points from today's stage: 

Five talking points from stage 12 of the Tour de France 2021

Mark Cavendish on stage 12 of the 2021 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images)