BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France (AFP) – Britain’s Simon Yates won stage 12 of the Tour de France on Thursday, beating two other survivors of a mass breakaway in the Pyrenees.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas and current overall leader Julian Alaphilippe finished the slog over two tough climbs together as any anticipated top 10 shake-up failed to materialise.
Simon, brother of Mitchelton Scott captain Adam Yates, is the Vuelta a Espana champion. He also led the Giro d’Italia earlier in 2018 before a meltdown under pressure from eventual champion Chris Froome.
“I’m here to help Adam, he’s doing well and is ready,” he said of his twin who is seventh in the overall and a potential Tour winner.
“But I’m really happy with this win, I got the green light to go from the team and timed it well.
“But now it’s back to the day job,” he smiled.
Simon Yates is over an hour adrift in the overall standings, but punched the air in joy after adding a Tour de France stage to victories in the Vuelta and Giro.
Yates came over the final climb with Bora’s Gregor Muehlberger of Austria and Astana man Pello Bilbao, but launched a long range sprint for the line to win by a clear bike length.
Cameras on the distant peloton showed Adam Yates, connected by radio to his team car, smiling.
Overall leader Alaphilippe led the peloton south the pink-bricked city of Toulouse for stage 12’s two mist shrouded Pyrenean peaks after vowing to hold on to the yellow jersey.
The two major obstacles on the road to the rural outpost of Bagneres-de-Bigorre were Tour classic: the 13.2km ascent of the Col de Peyresourde at an average of seven per cent followed by a steeper climb to Hourquette d’Ancizan. The day finished with a downhill charge to the finish line.
Peter Sagan won the intermediate sprint at the foot of the first climb, the burly fast-man having gamely joining the more slightly built riders on the escape, earning an increase in his green jersey points lead the hard way.
“I wanted to be in the breakaway, the sprint was my win,” said the 30-year-old.
Thomas traditionally does well in the time trial, the next major test earlier today.
“Geraint will put time into all his key rivals on the time trial,” the 83-year-old Raymond Poulidor, who finished on the Tour podium eight times without winning and is beloved to the French, told AFP of Friday’s 27.2km individual time-trial around Pau.
Alaphilippe has again vowed to defend his overall lead at Pau.
“I have a lead of 1min 12sec, and I’m really looking forward to pushing myself to a new limit,” said the 27-year-old soldier, who Thomas has described as ‘the darling of France’.