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Great Britain breaks French victory run
Jul 14th, 12. David Millar denied France a hat-trick of victories today when the Scotsman won a two man sprint against Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud on Stage 12 of the Tour de France.
Bradley Wiggins retained his yellow jersey after a slightly less stressful day for the GC riders.
With Team Sky's continued success, and Millar's victory - the fourth stage win for Great Britain this edition - this Tour de France looks to be a great success for those who have crossed the English channel.
"It's great to win time trials," said Millar, the current Commonwealth Time Trial Champion , "But a road stage is much more fun."
After a few days of watching the climbers and GC specialists fight it out for victory and gains in the overall rankings, today's race from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davézieux was a day when the opportunists seized their chance.
Millar, who broke his collarbone earlier in the season, was in a quintet that found themselves at the front of the stage after 100km of attacking action - over two Cat 1 climbs. Together with Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2R La Mondiale), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi), Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) and Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Millar worked up an an advantage of over 12min on the peloton.
The big gap allowed the leading five to concentrate on the stage win and not worry about who was coming from behind as none of them were a threat to Wiggins' overall lead.
Martinez was the first to try an attack in the final kilometres but it lasted a matter of seconds. Peraud made a brief surge with 3.5km to go and Millar responded and this eliminated the three others... although they were always in sight of the leading pair.
The trio refused to tow one another up to the front two and thus Millar was forced to lead Peraud out for the sprint.
The Frenchman opened up the sprint with 250m to go but the Scot easily matched his pace and held him off to win a stage of the Tour for the fourth time (after the opening stage of 2000 – his first appearance in the race, stage 13 in 2002, and the penultimate stage of 2003).
Peraud said he has mixed emotions between those of disappointment and of a sense of accomplishment after his 2nd place.
"There were four strong men with me and it was like a little lottery. I would have wished to have more success!" he said.
"It is clear that David (Millar) was stronger than me in the final part. I tried to do my best but whatever the manner used, I would have struggled to win today. I still lack some experience."
GC fight on hold
Although the fights for GC places were less intense than in the previous two stages, a super fast start and two Cat 1 climbs in the first 80km meant today was far from an easy day for anyone in the peloton.
Wiggins showed a small display of strength when he put in a little surge on the second Cat 1 climb, but he was denied by his rivals and ultimately rolled across the finish line with the 35-strong peloton 7m54s minutes behind his fellow Great Britain Olympic teammate.
Behind the GC leaders, the rest of the peloton came over the finish line well inside the time cut-off. They denied the organisers' planned 'battle out the back' when they managed to reach the peloton again on the long runs after the day's two climbs.
Today had an unhappy ending for Frenchman David Moncoutie (Cofidis), he was in an early counter attack but crashed off the road after 38km and was unable to get back on his bike. This was to be his last Tour de France.
Besides the stage win, the second big battle today was for the Green jersey. Unfortunately for Matt Goss (Orica Green Edge), he ended the day with less points than he started with thanks to a sprint infringement. Read more here ...
Wiggins finished in 12th place and will continue to wear the yellow jersey in tomorrow's Stage 13. Tomorow is Bastille Day, or Fete Nationale, in France - a day the French always try extra hard to win!
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