Tour de France: Ion Izagirre triumphs from the breakaway on breathless stage 12

Thibaut Pinot into top 10 after Vingegaard and Pogačar negotiate chaotic day

Clock16:58, Thursday 13th July 2023
Ion Izagirre celebrates his victory on stage 12 of the Tour de France

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Ion Izagirre celebrates his victory on stage 12 of the Tour de France

It was a breathless breakaway day on stage 12 of the Tour de France, with Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) attacking his companions on the last of five climbs to solo 30km to a second career victory at the Tour.

The Spaniard took advantage of the lack of cooperation in the six-man chasing group, which crucially contained his teammate Guillaume Martin, to cross the line with a minute to spare.

Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) slipped clear in the closing kilometres to sprint for the minor podium places, with Burgaudeau claiming the runner-up honours.

After an aggressive - and sometimes confounding - display from Jumbo-Visma, Tiesj Benoot trailed home in fourth place, ahead of Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno-X), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), and the celebrating Martin.

The reduced peloton crossed the line four minutes in arrears on a day that finished with some semblance of normality but lacked it for so long.

On a constantly undulating stage that took the riders away from the Massif Central and east towards the bigger mountains, the world’s best riders knocked chunks out of each other for the best part of two hours. The first 100km lacked any control, as race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) found himself plugging holes on his own, in a yellow jersey group that somehow counted just a dozen riders at one point.

The breakaway started to form from a heavily reduced bunch just shy of the half-way mark and finally did so with 75km remaining, with Izagirre part of a 15-rider move going clear ahead of the trio of medium mountains that preceded the 28km run-in to Belleville-en-Beaujolais. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) tried to steal a march but was brought back on the final climb, the category-2 Col de la Croix Rosier (5.3km at 7.6%), where Izagirre launched 2.3km from the summit.

He quickly found 20 seconds and ticked off the subsequent downhill before taking his lead out to a minute as the chasers looked at one another. They recovered 10 seconds on a short kicker 15km from home, but then fell apart once more, and Izagirre was able to enjoy the final kilometres.

“I’d been trying all Tour to get in a break and it wasn’t to be, but today was the day. Myself and Guillaume were going well all day, and on the final climb I felt strong and attacked - attacked from a long way out but I was able to make the difference and come away with the victory.

“It’s an incredible Tour for us,” he added of Cofidis’ second stage win, after Victor Lafay’s stage 2 success had ended an agonising 15-year drought. “We came with intention of winning a stage and getting a top-10 on GC. Now we have two victories and Guillaume is having an incredible Tour, so we hope to continue in that way.”

Martin indeed jumped five places up to 13th overall, as Pinot did the same to infiltrate the top 10. Those were the only significant developments on GC, despite the peloton splitting for much of the day.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) were all caught out in the second peloton but, despite AG2R Citroën trying to keep it at bay - even though it contained Ben O’Connor - there was a regrouping ahead of the finale.

Ineos Grenadiers and Bahrain Victorious then took the reins, presumably to try and limit the GC gains being made by Pinot. The relentless, somewhat bizarre day had a fitting ending as Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) sprinted for 12th place from the peloton, though Vingegaard was well in the wheel and the 17-second gap between them stands as the race heads for the Grand Colombier on Friday.

Chaos

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) was the first rider to attack, lighting a match that would spark a fuse that would lead to a pyrotechnics warehouse. It would be impossible to keep track of every acceleration thereafter, but with the likes of Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) and Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) all active, there was absolutely no shortage of quality.

However, there was so much motivation, and so much firepower, that nothing succeeded in going clear in the early phase, as reactions came to each move that looked like going.

The road had already been going uphill but the first climb was the category-3 Côte de Thizy-les-Bourgs (4.3km at 5.6%) after 20km, and it was here that the peloton split in two. Among those caught out in the second group were Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Louis Meintjes (Intemarché-Circus-Wanty), Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroen), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and polka-dot jersey Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost).

Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) were even caught behind early on, but scrambled back before the proper split.

It was on the second climb, the Col des Écorbans (2.1km at 6.9%), where an even more unhinged phase of the race began. Jorgenson and Burgaudeau went clear with Omar Fraile (Ineos Grenadiers), while behind the first peloton was decimated. Vingegaard was apparently surfing unassisted, with Pogačar following, and they had to open the taps as riders like Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) started jumping.

The Jorgenson trio was reeled in and by the top of the climb - where Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) grabbed maximum points - there were just 25 riders in the lead group, although the rest of the front peloton would soon rejoin.

Van Aert launched a solo move before the next wave of attacks saw Wilco Kelderman go clear with Skjelmose as Jumbo-Visma refused to try and control the race, instead lighting it up and leaving Vingegaard to respond to his rivals himself. It was all kicking off again on an undulating section, where the yellow jersey group was blown down to just a dozen riders.

Pogačar’s teammates Marc Soler and Adam Yates were both active, and Soler bridged to Kelderman and Skjelmose, but they were soon brought back. While Vingegaard appeared to be marking Yates, with Pogačar in the wheel, Benoot was the next aggressor for Jumbo-Visma, going away with Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) with just over 100km to go, in what would prove to be the foundation for the day’s eventual break.

On a downhill section, Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) bridged across to the front trio, followed by another trio in Jorgenson, Izagirre (Cofidis), and Andrey Amador (EF Education-EasyPost). The gaps were still minimal as things kicked off again on an uncategorised climb, where six more riders clipped off to join the break: Van der Poel, Burgaudeau, Johannessen, Martin, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), and Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar).

It wasn’t quite done, as Pinot quickly jumped across, before Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) and Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek) endured a longer effort to make the boat.

The intermediate sprint at Régnié-Durette with 75km to go marked the start of the new chapter, as the race finally settled into some sort of discernible pattern. 15 riders were out front, and Jumbo-Visma were now controlling what was a newly-expanded front peloton at 2:30. Meanwhile, the second peloton was at five minutes, the gruppetto of sprinters at more than 10 minutes, and a struggling Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny) at more than 15.

The endgame

The hilly final third featured three climbs, starting with the cat-3 Col de la Casse Froide (5.2km at 6.1%). The break stayed together as Martin led them over the top, while AG2R came forward to pull the first peloton - a move that kept their own man O’Connor at bay but offered GC gains for Felix Gall over Landa, Buchmann, and Meintjes. They took back a minute to bring the gap back down to 2:30, with the next peloton at 5:30.

Van der Poel and Amador went clear on the subsequent descent and opened a lead of 40 seconds as they hit the cat-2 Col de la Croix Montmain (5.5km at 6.1%). After a couple of kilometres, Van der Poel ripped clear of the Costa Rican with a vicious attack. When things picked up in the rest of the break, Pedersen, Stuyven, and Alaphilippe were quickly dropped. At the top, with 44km to go, Van der Poel led solo by 20 seconds over the remaining 12, with 3:00 back to the first peloton, where the AG2R drive was coming to nothing as the second bunch worked its way back.

Jorgenson and Pinot rolled off the main break group on the next descent to chase Van der Poel as they hit the final climb of the day, the cat-2 Col de la Croix Rosier (5.3km at 7.6%). They joined him half-way up but soon the group swelled to eight as Benoot, Martin, Izaguirre, Burgaudeau, and Johanessen made it across. Izaguirre attacked 2.3km from the top as Van der Poel and Amador dropped.

At the top of the climb, with 28.5km to go, Izaguirre had opened a lead of 25 seconds over the remaining six, while Ineos took the reins in the peloton and followed over at four minutes. Izaguirre powered on as the remaining six riders failed to mount a cohesive chase. By the end of the long downhill section, he’d found almost a minute - a winning advantage with 15km to go. Burgaudeau and Jorgenson accelerated on the late kicker but the cooperation soon drained away and that was that.

Dan Lloyd's race analysis

Jumbo-Visma: what is the ultimate goal?

Last year, Jumbo Visma defied convention. Going into the 2022 Tour de France, they had two genuine contenders to win GC - Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard. No other team could lay claim to that, but nevertheless, they were happy for Van Aert to hunt stage wins and the Green Jersey, and to send riders up the road in the breakaway even once they had the Yellow Jersey.

It worked - they came away with the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys, plus 6 stage wins - the doubters were proven wrong, the critics answered.

But that doesn’t mean that their tactics don’t continue to baffle. With Van Aert, I understand it. If you want the best all-round cyclist in the world to ride as domestique, you need to give him his own chances. If not, you risk losing him to a team in which he’d be the sole leader. On stage 12, though, it wasn’t just Van Aert who was given freedom - Keldermann spent a lot of energy trying to get into breakaways, and so too Benoot, who would end up in the winning move.

So far this year, it hasn’t worked. They have a slender lead on GC, but they are yet to pick up a stage win despite all their efforts.

I wouldn’t want them to change, it makes for far more entertaining racing than ‘the Sky years’, but it doesn’t feel like it’s the most sensible strategy if your big goal is to take the yellow jersey to Paris.

Maybe they want to make the race as hard as possible, to accumulate fatigue into the legs of the under-raced Tadej Pogačar. Or maybe I’m simply too long in the tooth to understand the modern game.

If Vingegaard wins his second Tour, most questions will have been answered. But a new one will arise - did they win the Tour de France because of their tactics, or in spite of them.

Race Results

1

es flag

IZAGIRRE Ion

Cofidis

3H 51' 42"

2

fr flag

BURGAUDEAU Mathieu

TotalEnergies

+ 58"

3

us flag

JORGENSON Matteo

Movistar Team

"

4

be flag

BENOOT Tiesj

Jumbo-Visma

+ 1' 06"

5

no flag

JOHANNESSEN Tobias Halland

Uno-X Pro Cycling Team

+ 1' 11"

6

fr flag

PINOT Thibaut

Groupama-FDJ

+ 1' 13"

7

fr flag

MARTIN Guillaume

Cofidis

"

8

be flag

TEUNS Dylan

Israel-Premier Tech

+ 1' 27"

9

pt flag

GUERREIRO Ruben

Movistar Team

"

10

be flag

CAMPENAERTS Victor

Lotto Dstny

+ 3' 02"

Provided by FirstCycling

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