Stage 12 Fougeres to Tours 218km
A lovely stage through the centre of France tonight. Ah the serenity. Can you FEEL the serenity? It’s funny, for most of us we probably envision France as this cavalcade of amazing sights pancaked on top of each other but I’m sure most of the population live in suburbs in big cities and don’t get to enjoy it that often. I mean, when was the last time you ducked out to Uluru for a picnic lunch or maybe the Great Barrier Reef? Geezus we haven’t been to either. Anyhow, we digress.
The stage featured a run in to Tours. Tours is basically catnip to sprinters. It gets them excited just to hear the town uttered. Any race that ends here seems to end up in a group kick. Add to this the the fact that the intermediate sprint was close to home and the breakaways chances of sticking it today? Buckley’s and none.
But cyclists huh? you can’t keep them down and there is always someone who wants to get in the break, irrespective of how doomed it is. Today’s contenders, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoliel-DCM) and Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) got off the front relatively late considering recent breaks have gone within a couple of kilometres of the start. This one went after 3.5km. Juan Antonio has been riding like a man possessed at this Tour: In breaks and finishing top 10 in group kicks. Surely riding for his future.
The gap to the break increased dramatically and was soon out to 9 minutes. A bewitching time of the stage when everyone wants to relax – and to reflect that so far there have been no French, Italian or Spanish stage winners in the first 11 stages, which hasn’t happened at the Tour de France since 1926.
Then the intermediate sprint was on and for some bizarre reason Boeckmans decided to shut the door on Sagan on the right. This led to some fairly classic Eastern European gesticulation from Sagan. It was the most animation I have seen from the peloton in some time. I miss a good bark every so often. We need another Tommy Steels who always liked to have a word or two with another rider.
The break slowly imploded however it was Flecha who was the last man standing, holding off the rampaging peloton until 6km to go. All the usual suspects moved their teams to the front however with under 3km to go, as the group was veering left through a turn, a Lotto rider went down and cut a large swathe through the group. This cut the front group down significantly and wiped out the Lotto team and coming into 1.5km to go it was Argos Shimano at the front with Quick Step lurking close by.
Coming in the final two turns it was still Argos and with 500m to go Veelers was swamped. Steegmans went with Cavendish on his wheel on the left and Kittel locked in at the back. Cavendish kicked and Phil was calling the win for Cavendish WAY too early. Kittel, as if he heard Phil talking rubbish, clicked into 5th gear and just dropped the hammer on the Manx Missile and took it on the line. We struggle to remember the last time Cavendish was beaten in a mano o mano group kick. Watching the replay his look across at the finish line was of stunned disbelief. Argos Shimano are currently burying Quick Step and you can be sure Cav will not be happy. Look for retribution (which hopefully will involve winning stages and not bumping Argos riders to the ground).