ANNONAY DAVÉZIEUX, France (VN) — David Millar turned Garmin-Sharp’s fortunes around on Friday, winning stage 12 of the Tour de France from a breakaway in Annonay Davezieux. Millar outwitted Jean-Cristophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) after the pair left behind their three breakaway mates in the final kilometers.
Millar’s fourth career Tour stage comes in the wake of a “horrific” Tour campaign for his Garmin team, which has lost several riders, including team leader Ryder Hesjedal.
“It’s been a horrific Tour for our team,” said Millar. “I wanted to prove that we’re still here. I wanted to prove that Garmin-Sharp is still one of the strongest teams in the world.”
Bradley Wiggins’ Sky teammates controlled the peloton most of the day, allowing the escapees to ride with a gap of 10-12 minutes over the second half of the stage. Wiggins came through with the peloton, led by a points-chasing Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), and kept his edge of more than two minutes over teammate Chris Froome.
The race jury relegated Goss for irregular sprinting, giving Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) a 56-point advantage in the race for the green jersey.
“He didn’t stay in his line. He changed his line, then made quite a big mistake, it’s clear to see,” said race director Jean-Francois Pescheux. “He has been relegated to last place on the stage.”
A day after the toughest stage in the Alps and with the only two major climbs coming within the first 80km, the breakaway contenders were primed from the start of the race’s longest stage. After 20km of attacks and counter-attacks a 19-strong group that included the first five finishers managed to pull itself free of the peloton to begin the 12.5km climb to the summit of the Cucheron.
On the way to the summit the frontrunners split as the demands of the Cat. 1 climb took their toll.
Eleven leaders went over the summit with a lead of 53 seconds on the main peloton containing the yellow jersey and the big favorites and they would go on to increase their lead further. Millar was part of a five-man group that finally broke free of the other six riders on the descent of the day’s second climb with around 120km to race.
By then, Millar was already considering his options.
“When it whittled down to the five riders I didn’t expect to be at the front but I was feeling great,” he said. “Once we were in the group of five I knew I was the fastest sprinter there so I decided my tactics about 120km out, and that was to win the sprint.”
The five leaders went on to build a significant lead on the peloton, taking their advantage to nearly 13 minutes.
“They didn’t let us go, we really had to fight hard to build that advantage!” he said.
Millar for the sprint?
After collaborating all day, Spaniard Egoi Martinez of the crash-hit Euskaltel-Euskadi team began the hostilities with a brief attack 4km from the finish. But it was Peraud’s acceleration 2.7km from the slightly uphill finish that proved decisive.
“That was my best chance there,” explained Peraud. “Because I knew that I wouldn’t have the sprint finish to match Millar.”
Millar fought hard to get back on the wheel, and his efforts allowed the pair to open up a decisive gap on Martinez, Frenchman Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Croatian Robert Kiserlovski (Astana).
At the end, Millar collapsed on the ground to soak up a victory that comes 45 years to the day after the death of British cycling giant Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux.
Editor’s Note: Keep your browser pointed to VeloNews.com for more from stage 12 of the Tour de France.