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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 12: Tom Pidcock becomes youngest winner on Alpe d’Huez

The Ineos Grenadiers rider soars away from the breakaway to take biggest road victory of his career.

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Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) attacked from the breakaway to take an historic victory on Alpe d’Huez at the Tour de France.

The British rider attacked his four breakaway companions with just over 10 kilometers to go and never looked back. Louis Meintjes (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) finished second at 48 seconds behind Pidcock with Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) taking third, just over two minutes adrift.

In the GC battle, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) put in several stinging attacks to try and break yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) but the Dane was glued to his wheel the whole way to the line.

Pogačar still moved back into second place overall after Romain Bardet (Team DSM) cracked on Alpe d’Huez, while Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was the only rider to finish on the same time as Pogačar and Vingegaard and moved onto the podium.

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Pidcock made it into the day’s breakaway after bridging across to an early move on the breakaway of the Col du Galibier and looked confident throughout the day. A push by the Ineos Grenadiers rider on the second climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer helped to split the breakaway, leaving just five riders.

The five worked well together over the remainder of the climb and through the valley to the foot of the Alpe d’Huez before Pidcock made his move. Nobody could follow him, though Meintjes got close to bringing him back, and he pushed on alone to the top, a performance that would push him back into the top 10 and make him the youngest winner on the climb at 22.

“It’s not bad. I guess it’s made my Tour de France so far, even if nothing else happens, if I get dropped every day now, I don’t care. A stage win in my first Tour, it’s not bad,” Pidcock said afterward. “The idea was to get into the break. I lost enough time yesterday that hopefully I would be given freedom. If I’d gone up the climb on the Galibier I don’t think I would have got away but on the descent, I guess because Jumbo don’t want to risk chasing me, and the gap was small enough to go across. It worked out perfectly in the end.

“That was certainly one of my best experiences in cycling. It was unreal. When you are literally slaloming through people’s flags, fists, and God knows what else, you can’t experience that anywhere else other than at the Tour de France.”

How it happened

After a brutal day up to the Col du Granon, the exhausted peloton had another big day in the Alps ahead of them with a second ascent of the Col du Galibier followed by a traverse of the Col de la Croix de Fer and the summit finish of Alpe d’Huez.

With plenty of tired legs, and a stiff headwind on the Galibier, the pace at the start was far slower than on previous days. Several riders had a go at getting in the attack, including Jumbo-Visma trio Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss, and Steven Kruijswijk.

The day’s breakaway eventually began to take hold after 20 kilometers of racing with more recruits joining in dribs and drabs with Jumbo-Visma allowing it to go as the team paced the bunch. As the dust settled, it would be nine riders that made up the leading group.

The group was comprised of Pidcock, Meintjes, Froome, Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Kobe Goossens (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), and Sebastian Schönberger (B&B Hotels KTM).

The breakaway worked hard to build enough of a lead to be able to dispute the stage win (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Once the move was gone, the pace eased off further and the breakaway was allowed over seven minutes by the time the race reached the foot of the Col de la Croix de Fer. With Pidcock in the leading group, the peloton couldn’t fully relax as he started the day just 11:12 behind the yellow jersey.

As the leaders hit the steepest part of the Croix de Fer, the gap was ticking down below 6:30 and Pidcock put in a small acceleration, followed by Meintjes, thinning out the bunch quickly and reducing it to just five riders. Ciccone, Froome, and Powless completed the quintet.

Behind in the bunch, Jumbo-Visma began to ramp up the pace on the front with Nathan van Hooydonck churning up the road and spitting riders out of the back of the bunch. The cranking up of the speed saw the gap to the breakaway dipping down below six minutes, and it had fallen to less than five by the time the leaders crested the Croix de Fer.

There was a relative stalemate once over the top of the ascent, down the descent, and through the valley, giving the five-man leading group six minutes with which to start the final climb up the Alpe d’Huez.

Pidcock and Pogačar attack Alpe d’Huez

As the GC riders jostled for position ahead of the ascent of the formidable Alpe, cracks began forming in the breakaway with Powless distanced on the toughest early kilometers. Froome also looked in trouble as he started gapping the wheel in front of him, but both would claw their way back.

Wout van Aert led the bunch onto the climb, one of four Jumbo-Visma riders still surrounding Vingegaard in the yellow jersey. Meanwhile, Pogačar had just two teammates to help him out in Rafał Majka and Marc Soler.

Pidcock had looked to be one of the strongest in the breakaway and he was, unsurprisingly, the first to test the waters with an attack at just over 10k to go. Meintjes set off in chase with Froome not too far behind while Ciccone and Powless were distanced further down the road.

Meintjes gradually closed the gap to Pidcock, but just as it looked like he might be within touching distance, with seven kilometers to go, Pidcock put in another dig to edge out his advantage.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) continued to add to his advantage as the climb of Alpe d’Huez progressed (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Behind, Primož Roglič picked up the pacing duties for Jumbo-Visma, committing fully to his new role of domestique. The Slovenian’s surge blew apart what remained of the main group with David Gaudu and Nairo Quintana weakening almost instantly, and only 10 riders remained.

Roglič peeled off and dropped out of the group only a couple of minutes after taking the front, but his effort was significant. Sepp Kuss continued the infernal pace, thinning out the group of favorites even further with Romain Bardet, Adam Yates, and Majka out the back.

As Kuss finished his turn with about four kilometers to go, Pogačar saw his opportunity to attack. Only Vingegaard could match the stinging surge by Slovenian, as it has been throughout much of this race. Thomas set his own pace and was soon back with the pair and Kuss also returned to help his team leader for a little while longer.

Pogačar wasn’t done, and he would put in another massive surge inside the final two kilometers, but Vingegaard was wise to it once again. As before, Thomas would continue at his pace to reel the duo back in.

While the GC riders were duking it out, Pidcock continued to open up the gap to Meintjes and Froome behind him. As he hit the final drag to the line, he was certain of victory, though he still almost couldn’t believe it until he threw his arms up in celebration.

There was still one more attack to be had from Pogačar inside the final 200 meters but he could not escape his yellow shadow in Vingegaard.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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