David Millar, today won Stage 12 of this year's race in Annonay after again getting into an escape group that formed early on, his win came 45 years to the day after a legendary British cyclist of another era, Tom Simpson died at the Tour on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. In the final kilometres, Millar and AG2R's Jean-Christophe Péraud distanced their three remaining fellow escapees, the Scot waiting for the Frenchman to come round him just short of the line and counter-attacking to clinch the fourth Tour de France stage victory of his career.
In winning today, Millar, who broke his collarbone earlier this season, not only proves he has ridden into great form for the Olympic road race in a fortnight's time, but also gives Garmin-Sharp something to celebrate in a race that saw its riders caught up in a number of crashes in the opening week. He also becomes the fourth British rider to win a stage of this year's Tour, alongside the Team Sky trio of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and Mark Cavendish. Wiggins and Froome had another successful day who and remain respectively first and second overall,. .
Millar, winner of three previous stages in the Tour de France – the Prologue in 2000, which put him into the maillot jaune, a road stage in Béziers in 2002 and an individual time trial in Nantes in 2003 – was instrumental in making sure that he and his fellow escapees stayed away today, when an attack from Liquigas-Cannondale’s Peter Sagan at one stage making it look like the peloton would up the tempo which would have spelt the end of the break.
The five men who formed that final selection – besides Millar and Péraud, the quintet comprised Cyril Gautier of Europcar, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Egoi Martinez – had been in a group of 19 riders that got away early on in the stage ahead of the first of two Category 1 climbs tackled early on during the 226 kilometre stage from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Annonay.
On the descent from the first of those, the Col du Grand-Cucheron, David Moncoutié of Cofidis crashed out of the Tour, suffering a suspected broken collarbone. The Frenchman had been looking to rescue something for his team from a Tour that has seen Rémy Di Gregorio arrested on doping-related charges and Rein Taaramae, who had earlier worn the best young rider’s white jersey, blow up spectacularly on yesterday’s stage.
As the break headed up the second big climb of the day, the Col du Granier, crested with nearly 150 kilometres still to ride, its composition was whittled down to leave just those five riders who would eventually contest the finale out at the front of the race as the crossed the summit.
With a chasing group a minute or so behind them and the peloton less than three minutes behind, its pace increased after Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins launched an attack on the ascent that was never going to influence the final result but seemed to serve to remind everyone that he is in the maillot jaune, there was no guarantee that the Millar group would stay out, particularly when Sagan launched himself down the descent.
Orica-GreenEdge, whose sprinter Matt Goss desperately needed to make up some points to try and close the gap on Sagan at the top of that competition, chased hard, and the Australian was the first man from the peloton over the intermediate sprint. With the threat from Sagan negated, meanwhile, the main bunch took its foot off the gas and the breakaway’s lead stretched out well beyond ten minutes as it became clear they weren’t going to be caught.
Sagan and Goss weren’t finished, however; a hard-fought sprint for sixth place at the end of the stage saw the Orica-GreenEdge man, who crossed ahead of his rival, adjudged to have ridden across the Liquigas-Cannondale rider’s line and he was relegated behind his opponent in the result, meaning that Sagan now has 56-point lead over the Australian.
Three years ago when the Tour visited Catalonia Millar was denied a stage victory as the peloton caught him late in Barcelona after he'd spent much of the day on a solo break. On the penultimate stage of that 2009 Tour, Millar had stopped on Mont Ventoux to lay a bidon at the memorial to Tom Simpson, today in the most dramatic of fashion he paid another tribute to Simpson with a superb win on the 45th anniversary of the Englishman's death.
Stage winner David Millar, Garmin-Sharp:
“It's amazing. I was thinking about the form of the British team while I was out there today. You've got a lot of time to think when you're riding for 226 kilometres... and we've got four stage winners in our team – we are going to have the strongest team at the Olympics and let's hope that we can do what we have to do.
“You can't miss the attention that cycling is now receiving from the British public. It's something that we have to be very proud of; we have to appreciate that this isn't going to happen every year either. We've got the reigning world champion, we've got Brad in yellow – and he's more than likely going to win the Tour... we've got Chris who is Brad's biggest threat, his British team-mate. And if you had said that this would happen when I was at the Tour 10 years ago, I wouldn't have believed you – I'd have thought you were just crazy.
“I think this is as good a win as I've had in my career. And it's particularly poignant that it came today on the 45th anniversary of Tommy Simpson's death. I think it's a full circle in a way. I'm an ex-doper and I'm very proud of where our sport is today and what we've done to change it. I think we mustn't forget the past and I'm one of the people who have made mistakes and I want people to know that I am clean now and the sport is a different sport. We should be very proud of it.
“I needed to do this for the team. I'm very proud to be the one who's helped the team come back from what's been a shocking Tour. I was determined to win today. Allan [Peiper, the Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif] has had a rough time these last few weeks – we all have... we came here with big objectives and they were destroyed in one fell swoop so I think we've shown our character and we're going to continue on the same manner.”
Maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky:
“It was a tough stage. The whole world just sees the last 100 kilometres but the first 100 was probably as hard as any Tour de France stage so far. It was a tough one today and even in the finish there, you couldn't relax for one minute because it was a tricky finish.
“For Dave [Millar] to win after the season that he's had – breaking a collarbone early in the year and having to be on the comeback trail ever since – is impressive. To win on the anniversary of Tom [Simpson's death] is fantastic. I think he was beginning to feel a little left out this week so it's great for the team… our Olympic team. In a couple of weeks' time it's all going to happen. We've all won stages in the Tour so it's brilliant.
“This is the Tour de France and everybody wants to make a story but there is no story [regarding a supposed rivalry with Chris Froome].
“When I chased down the move over the second climb, I did so just to eliminate that break because we didn't want [Jérôme] Coppel to go away because he was only at 12 minutes on GC so it neutralised that breakaway at the summit. I was helping the team.
“There's never an easy day in the Tour. And that's the case again today.”
Sean Yates, Sports Director, Team Sky:
“It was hard at the start and the other teams didn’t make it easy for us, but at the same time they didn’t make it easy for themselves either and we shut down any moves that were dangerous.
“It’s another day down but no stage is easy at the Tour. We knew it had the potential to turn into a difficult scenario but in the end it all played out nicely. On the second climb Coppel jumped away and then at the top Bradley jumped out and closed the final 10 seconds to nullify the threat.
“After the climbs it slowed right down and it meant that the whole gruppetto with Bernie and Cav could catch up and help out so it all worked out.”
Points classification leader Peter Sagan, Liquigas-Cannondale:
"We can see in the video what [Matt] Goss did [in the sprint for sixth at the end of the stage]. It's up to the race jury to decide, not me but I think that it's obvious in the video. He did that because we are two riders who are going for the green jersey. He's the one who is doing battle with me but I hope I'm going to win that fight.”
Tour de France Stage 13 result 1 MILLAR David GARMIN-SHARP 05h 42' 46'' 2 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 00'' 3 MARTINEZ Egoi EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 00' 05'' 4 GAUTIER Cyril TEAM EUROPCAR 5 KISERLOVSKI Robert ASTANA PRO TEAM 6 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 07' 53'' 7 GOSS Matthew ORICA GREENEDGE 8 HINAULT Sébastien AG2R LA MONDIALE 9 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM 10 PAOLINI Luca KATUSHA TEAM 11 SIMON Julien SAUR-SOJASUN 12 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 13 MARCATO Marco VACANSOLEIL-DCM 14 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE 15 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING 16 BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM 17 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 18 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 19 IMPEY Daryl ORICA GREENEDGE 20 BELVANENDERT Jelle LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM Last man home on Stage 13 164 KERN Christophe TEAM EUROPCAR + 19' 15'' General Classification after Stage 13 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 54h 34' 33'' 2 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING + 02' 05'' 3 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 02' 23'' 4 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 03' 19'' 5 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM + 04' 48'' 6 ZUBELDIA Haimar RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 06' 15'' 7 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 06' 57'' 8 BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM + 07' 30'' 9 ROLLAND Pierre TEAM EUROPCAR + 08' 31'' 10 PINOT Thibaut FDJ-BIGMAT + 08' 51'' Points Classification after Stage 13 1 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 254 pts 2 GOSS Matthew ORICA GREENEDGE 198 pts 3 GREIPEL André LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 181 pts 4 CAVENDISH Mark SKY PROCYCLING 129 pts 5 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM 100 pts Mountains Classification after Stage 13 1 KESSIAKOFF Fredrik ASTANA PRO TEAM 66 pts 2 ROLLAND Pierre TEAM EUROPCAR 55 pts 3 SORENSEN Chris Anker TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 39 pts 4 KISERLOVSKI Robert ASTANA PRO TEAM 37 pts 5 SCARPONI Michele LAMPRE - ISD 33 pts Young Rider's Classification after Stage 13 1 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 54h 41' 30'' 2 PINOT Thibaut FDJ-BIGMAT + 01' 54'' 3 TAARAMAE Rein COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 27' 55'' 4 VALLS FERRI Rafael VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 35' 36'' 5 KRUIJSWIJK Steven RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 42' 28''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.