Simon Yates won his first ever Tour de France stage victory with a well-timed sprint on stage 12 from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Going into the final 90-degree bend with 300m to go alongside Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pello Bilbao (Astana), Yates hit the front and opened up his sprint, holding strong to the line with neither rider able to pass him. Bilbao finished second with Mühlberger third.
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Yates, Bilbao and Mühlberger had broken away toward the top of the second and final first category climb of the day, to Hourquette d’Ancizan, as the large breakaway group whittled itself down after a series of attacks.
Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) abandoned the race with 80km to go, climbing off at the feed zone and heading back to the team bus, with his team apparently none the wiser at the Australian’s decision to quit.
The peloton rolled in nearly ten minutes later, as the GC remained unchanged as the main contenders decided to save their legs for stage 13’s time trial as well as the mountains to come.
How it happened
Stage 12 provided a first taste of the mountains proper, with two first category climbs at the iconic Peyresourde and then the Hourquette d’Ancizan before a descent into Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Jasper Philipsen (Trek-Segafredo) failed to take the start, with his team apparently always planning on only allowing the 21-year-old to ride half of the race, leaving 168 riders to roll out from Toulouse out of the original 176 that lined up in Brussels.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked off the front of the bunch soon after the flag dropped, with a number of attacks coming and going in the first hour of infernal racing, until an enormous breakaway went free, quickly opening up a gap of nearly two minutes that included a number of sprinters.
The main talking point of the day occurred before the high mountains, with Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data) and Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) both abandoning before the race started going uphill. The latter’s abandonment became the subject of much speculation after his team sent out vague tweets and details of the Australian’s decision to climb off remaining sparse as the peloton began the final 80km of the stage.
Peter Sagan won the intermediate sprint, naturally, with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) rolling over the line second.
Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Energie) sprung from the breakaway with 70km to race halfway up the Peyresourde as a Bora-Hansgrohe soigneur hit the deck after getting in the way of Greg Van Avermaet (CCC).
Calmejane was caught by Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) at the summit to take the maximum King of the Mountains points, with Simon Clarke (EF Education First) celebrating his 33rd birthday by hitting speeds of 94km/h on the 13km long descent, taking out an advantage of nearly a minute.
Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked the break at the bottom of the Hourquette d’Ancizan and soon caught Clarke, with Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Mathias Frank and Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale), Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) soon also starting to ride away and finding themselves 15 seconds behind the leading duo.
Yates and Mühlberger then rode away at the front of the race with 1k to the summit, with Pello Bilbao (Astana) in pursuit.
The Brit was first over the top, with the trio coming back together for the run-in to the finish line, holding a gap of over a minute to the Roche group behind.
The leading group worked well together into the finish, before starting to look at each other as they went under the 1km to go banner.
Yates rode behind Bilbao and Mühlberger, before darting forward around the final bend, as Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) did to beat Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) on this finish in 2013, with the pair unable to catch him before the finish line.
Simon Yates now completes his set of Grand Tour stage wins, having already taken Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España stage victories.
Tour de France 2019, stage 12: Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre (209.5km)
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 4-57-53
2. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana
3. Gregor Mühlbeger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, both at same time
4. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-28
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 Clark (Aus) EF Education First
10. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
General classification after stage 12
General classification after stage twelve
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 52-26-09
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos, at 1-12
3. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos, at 1-16
4. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-27
5. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-45
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-46
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-47
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2-04
9. Dan Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-09
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-33