It was a big fight to make the breakaway on stage 12 with attack after attack brought back and a blistering 50 kilometers covered in the first hour of racing.
CCC Team was active from the start, featuring in almost every breakaway attempt from kilometer zero, with all six riders trying their luck at the front of the race until, finally, a staggering 42-rider breakaway featuring Van Avermaet and Pauwels went clear after more than 40 kilometers of racing.
Once the peloton sat up to allow the group to go clear, the advantage grew to more than four minutes on the flat terrain approaching the category one climbs, the Col de Peyresourde and the Hourquette d’Ancizan.
As the road went up on the Col de Peyresourde, the breakaway immediately started to shed riders and at the summit, where Pauwels crossed in third place, Simon Clarke (EF1) attacked to go solo on the descent.
With 40 kilometers to go, on the approach to the Hourquette d’Ancizan, Clarke led Van Avermaet and Pauwels’ group by one and a half minutes while behind, the peloton was a further six minutes back.
Matteo Trentin (MTS) attacked from the chase group in pursuit of Clarke while behind, on the early slopes of the climb, Van Avermaet and Pauwels’ group began to split.
Pauwels clawed his way back multiple times and crested the summit with the first chase group behind the leading trio, around one minute back, and with it all downhill from there, the trio managed to maintain their advantage on the run into the finish.
Simon Yates (MTS) sprinted to the win and behind Van Avermaet, who made contact with Pauwels’ group in the final kilometers, crossed the line in 11th place with Pauwels just behind in 13th, one and a half minutes behind Yates.
After the first day of climbing in the Pyrenees, riders will race against the clock on the only individual time trial of the race on stage 13.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It was a really tough stage, really hard to make the breakaway, but it was good that Serge and I were in. I also realized that a lot of climbers were there and it would be hard to win the stage. Then, we tried to do as good as possible on the climbs. I think Serge had really good legs and showed good form. I tried to do my best on the climb and just came back in the end. My sprint was again not good, I need to work on it the next weeks. In the end, it was just about a top ten place and it’s always nice to be a little bit closer but if it was for first place, it would be even worse.”
“Today was really a big fight. Almost everybody was trying to get in the breakaway and nobody ever got more than 20 meters. We expected that it would take a long time, but we had to keep fighting with the six of us because that was our only chance to do a good result today. I was surprised that suddenly a big group went away. At first, I thought there may have been a crash or something because it was really strange to see a quarter of the peloton riding away. Greg and I were there so it was pretty good. Obviously, if you look around and see guys like Simon Yates and Pello Bilbao you know it’s going to be hard to win the stage. I think we did well and rode for what we could. This is the way we have to race and keep racing until Paris, and maybe luck will be on our side.”
“I chose my own rhythm because I know I am not very explosive. It was pretty good that I was with the first guys behind the three leaders. At that point, I was a bit hopeful that we could still come back, but with guys like Trentin and Schachmann, it was a bit difficult to keep chasing as they had teammates in front. I think the three best riders were in front and Yates deserved the win.”
Tour de France
Stage 12 Toulouse > Bannières-de-Bigorre (209.5km)
Top 3: 1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT), 2. Pello Bilbao (Astana Pro Team), 3. Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-hansgrohe)
CCC Team top 3: 11. Greg Van Avermaet, 13. Serge Pauwels, 40. Michael Schär