By Jen Benepe, July 13, 2012
In a last minute sprint out of a five man break that he sustained over 211 km, David Millar won the first stage for the Garmin Sharp team today.
Millar held off a last minute attack by Jean Christophe Peraud (ALM) to take the line at the finish, after fending off, then chasing several attacks from the three other riders in the break, especially Astana rider Robert Kiserlovski, whose legs finally tired in the last 1000 meters.
“Today I wanted to prove that we are still here, and that Garmin Sharp is one of the best teams in the world,” said Millar reflecting on his first win for the Garmin Sharp team which has suffered a lot of difficulty in this Tour so far.
Even Cyril Gautier who is a good sprinter could not match the acceleration by Millar as he and Peraud dropped Kiserlovski, Gautier, and Egoi Martinez from the lead in the last 1000 meters. All of them had been out in front for the majority of the 224 km stage, the longest in the Tour.
Behind them in the peloton, a classic sprinter run-up came through with Matt Goss leading the sprint, then clipping the run-out line of Peter Sagan (Orica Greenedge) who complained visibly after Goss took the line.
Goss lost his first place in the sprint, and received penalties, which put his time at the back of the sprint after the judges reached a descision post-race.
Millar compared his win to the stage 13 TDF win in 2002 into Bezier. “It’s much better than winning a time trial,” he said. “Our Olympic team is made up of Tour de France stage winners,” he said promising that they would do well in London this August.
In the overall standings, Vincenzo Nibali lost some time against Bradley Wiggins, but he was still in 3rd position. Cadel Evans, who was seen in the final peloton sprint, is also still in 4th position.
With its two climbs followed by a mostly flat section, this 226 km from Saint Jean de Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux was sure to feature a breakaway, followed by a sprint finish into Annonay Davezieux.
Still the climbs before the flat stages presented a challenge for sprinters, first the Col du Grand Cucheron, a 1 category climb with an average 6.5 percent grade, followed by le Col du Grainier, an 8.6 grade category 1 climb.
Even trickier was the small climb before the finish, which would favor a rider who was not a strict sprinter–such as David Millar or Peter Sagan.
Add to the technical challenges of the stage were narrow roads, and liberally sprinkled roundabouts, particularly as the riders reached the finish.
At 30 km to go, there was a 5 man breakaway over 12 minutes and 7 seconds ahead of the peloton, and they included Egoi Martinez (EUS) , Robert Kiserlovski, (AST) (who was in the break in yesterday’s stage 11), Jean Christophe Peraud (ALM), Cyril Gautier (EUC), and David Millar (GRS).
None of these riders stood to jettison themselves into the top 5 leader positions because after 11 stages, only Egoi Martinez was close, and he was 25 minutes and 23 seconds behind Wiggins. Even if he were to keep the gap at 12 minutes with the Yellow Jersey leader, 12 minutes is still to high a gap to beat down by the end of the Tour.
Behind them in the peloton were all of the big sprinters, Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss, Andre Greipel, van Hummel, and Peter Sagan.
Those riders sprinted for the intermediate point in Marcilloles at 153 km from the start. In that sprint, Goss (OGE) came in first winning 10 points, and Greipel was second (9 points.) van Hummel was third, though the five break riders took the top five positions for the sprint points.
Among the break riders, Millar crossed the line first, followed by Gautier and Kiserlovski.
Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel who had been dropped on the early climbs rejoined the peloton before the intermediate sprint.
Among the break leaders, Jean Christophe Peraud, who was featured in the break, finished 10th overall in the 2011 Tour, was the silver medalist in the cross country mountain bike race of the Beijing Olympics, and was the 2009 French time trial champion.
David Millar won the first stage of the 2000 TDF, and the 13th stage into Bezier in 2002 when he was out all day in the break, and sprinted to the stage victory against David Extebarria and Michael Boogerd.
At 22 km to the finish, the lead group was making their way up the final cat 3 section at the Cote d’Ardoix, a 3.4 percent grade climb of 5.9 km.
Even though they were 12 minutes behind, the main contenders were still thinking of taking time away from Yellow Jersey holder Bradley Wiggins, and were certain to launch vicious attacks in the last 20 km.
Bernie Eisel (SKY) who spent a lot of time at the head of the main field, punctured about 20 km from the finish but came back quickly.
At 8.7 km to the finish the lead group was still ahead of the peloton by 10 minutes and 27 seconds, and none of the riders were looking to take an advantage yet.
The gap with the peloton had narrowed somewhat from its height of over 12 minutes, but it was clear that the break would arrive at the finish line first.
After 211 km in the lead, all of the five riders may have been tired, but one of them would look to win the stage. With 2 km to go, and still a 9 minute gap, Kiserlovski attacked again, with Millar behiind him, then Peraud went over the top, and Millar went across.
The sprinter Gautier saw the gap and ahead of him at 50 meters, was David Millar in front and Peraud behind. At 2 km to go, Millar faced the quandary of leading Peraud out, Peraud came to the front, Millar went back, and they continued to work together to hold off the three riders 50 meters behind them.
At the last 1000 meters of the longest day of the Tour de France, Millar and Peraud continued to play poker, as they entered the last bend.
Riding in front he was confident he could handle a jump by Peraud. Peraud jumped, and Millar beat him to the line.
Earlier in the day, with the five man break ahead, a second chase group formed consisting of Popovych RNT), Kern (EUC), Izaguirre (EUS), Koren (LIQ), Nerz (LIQ), Sagan (LIQ), Taaramae, (COF(, Vorganov (KAT), and Sorensen (STB), who were ahead of the peloton by one minute 35 seconds.
But with Sagan on the attack in the chase group, Orica-Greenedge pushed the pace so that Matt Goss would be able to take points at the intermediate sprint., and they caught the break at the feedzone, 108.5 km from the start.
Overall Standings at the end of Stage 12 (ASO)
|1.||GBRWIGGINS Bradley||101||SKY PROCYCLING||54h 34′ 33”|
|2.||GBRFROOME Christopher||105||SKY PROCYCLING||54h 36′ 38”||+ 02′ 05”|
|3.||ITANIBALI Vincenzo||51||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||54h 36′ 56”||+ 02′ 23”|
|4.||AUSEVANS Cadel||1||BMC RACING TEAM||54h 37′ 52”||+ 03′ 19”|
|5.||BELVAN DEN BROECK Jurgen||111||LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM||54h 39′ 21”||+ 04′ 48”|
|6.||ESPZUBELDIA Haimar||19||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||54h 40′ 48”||+ 06′ 15”|
|7.||USAVAN GARDEREN Tejay||9||BMC RACING TEAM||54h 41′ 30”||+ 06′ 57”|
|8.||SLOBRAJKOVIC Janez||181||ASTANA PRO TEAM||54h 42′ 03”||+ 07′ 30”|
|9.||FRAROLLAND Pierre||29||TEAM EUROPCAR||54h 43′ 04”||+ 08′ 31”|
|10.||FRAPINOT Thibaut||146||FDJ-BIGMAT||54h 43′ 24”||+ 08′ 51”|