The 2019 Tour de France saw a third rider complete the stage-win triple crown on Stage 12 – this one a rider of an entirely different caliber. Simon Yates, who last year won the Vuelta a España and three stages of the Giro d’Italia, equaled the achievements of Caleb Ewan yesterday and Elia Viviani earlier in the race to become the 98th rider in history to win at least one stage in each of the three Grand Tours.
Yates is riding this year’s Tour in support of his twin brother, Adam, and so has been taking things remarkably easy for someone who is usually at the head of the peloton. He started the day in 97th place, over an hour behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe, and made his way into an enormous, 40-man breakaway group, which took the first 30 kilometers of the stage to form.
Polka-dot jersey wearer Tim Wellens led the break over the first of the stage’s two big climbs, the Peyresourde, and Simon Clarke paved the way down the descent, going clear of the bunch and establishing a gap of about a minute over the next 20 kilometers.
Clarke was caught on the final climb, though, by a splinter group that included Yates and teammate Matteo Trentin. But cresting the Hourquette d’Ancizan – with 30 kilometers of downhill and flat roads left to go – it was just Yates, Gregor Mühlberger, and two-time Giro stage winner Pello Bilbao. Just a few kilometers down the descent, the gap that they had opened over all of the breakaway riders behind ensured that the final sprint would be contested among the three of them.
The trio worked well together down the mountain and along the valley floor, but with one kilometer to go, their careful cooperation turned to mutual suspicion, as each sorted out how they might beat the others to the line – especially tricky given three riders of different types and calibers.
But Yates – a former world champion in track racing – almost made it look easy. After freewheeling cannily at the back of the group for much of the final kilometer, he launched into a sprint on the final, left-hand bend. It almost looked like a feint at first. It also looked like he wouldn’t be able to hang on for the final 200 meters. Perhaps he had gone too soon. But neither Mühlberger nor Bilbao had the strength or angle to get around him by the line.
Meanwhile, the group of riders who are – unlike Simon Yates – vying for overall victory at the Tour seemed to take the day off, likely saving their energy for tomorrow’s individual time trial rather than taking a risk on a stage that had too much road between the final summit and the finish line. The Ineos, Movistar, and Deceuninck teams took turns setting a moderate pace at the front of the group, and the whole affair summited the Ancizan together, rolling placidly in to the finish in Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
In Other News
• Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France today, for reasons that were not immediately clear (though it appears he was not involved in any kind of crash). The reigning world time trial champion came into the Tour in great condition, having raced one of the best stage races of his career in this year’s Tour de Suisse, and he would have been specifically targeting tomorrow’s individual time trial, where he would have been an obvious favorite.
• Sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo also abandoned, likely still suffering injuries from a crash yesterday.
|2||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia||+00:00:00|
|8||Rui Alberto Faria Costa||+00:01:28|
|3||Egan Arley Bernal Gomez||+00:01:16|
|8||Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas||+00:02:04|