Izagirre soloes to victory in lively Tour de France stage as Vingegaard keeps overall lead

Spain's Ion Izagirre celebrates after winning the twelfth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 169 kilometers (105 miles) with start in Roanne and finish in Belleville-en-Beaujolais, France, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (Benoit Tessier/Pool Photo via AP)

BELLEVILLE-EN-BEAUJOLAIS, France — Ion Izagirre emerged victorious from an absorbing mid-mountain Tour de France stage which started with a flurry of attacks that lasted to the end on Thursday.

The Cofidis rider posted his second career Tour stage win in the 12th stage.

The 169-kilometer (105-mile) stage took riders across the Beaujolais vineyards on a route with two big climbs in the second half of the trek. The first two hours of racing were furious, with several dozen riders dropped over the first 25 kilometers.

Izagirre attacked from a group of strong and experienced breakaway riders in the final climb — the brutal ascent of the 5.3-kilometer Col de la Croix Rosier. Tucked in an aerodynamic position, the Basque rider took all the risks in the downhill, then used his strong time trial skills to thwart his rivals’ chase after a tremendous 31-kilometer solo effort.

“It’s incredible. For the whole Tour so far I tried to break away and it didn’t work out but today, yes,” he said. “I was confident in my strength. I knew that if I earned enough lead, my adversaries wouldn’t have me in sight and it would play in my favor.”

It was also the second stage win for a Basque rider after Pello Bilbao claimed Stage 10.

“It’s a very Basque Tour de France. It started at home for us and we took two stage wins,” said Izagirre, in reference to the Tour start from the Spanish town of Bilbao this year.

Mathieu Burgaudeau was second in the stage, and Matteo Jorgenson completed the podium.

Izagirre’s previous Tour win was in 2016 in the Alpine town of Morzine. He’s also won stages at the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta.

There were no major changes in the general classification. Jonas Vingegaard kept his 17-second lead over two-time champion Tadej Pogacar after the rivals remained together throughout the day. Jai Hindley remained in third place, lagging 2 minutes, 40 seconds off the pace.

The fight for the yellow jersey is expected to resume on Friday on the ascent of the Grand Colombier, a mammoth climb in the Jura which concludes the 13th stage.

It took a long time for the break to form on a route with constant ups and downs, after a high-speed crash involving David De La Cruz and Quentin Pacher split the peloton in two. The Spanish rider abandoned, joining his Astana-Qazaqstan teammates Luis Leon Sanchez and Mark Cavendish on the list of withdrawals.

Pogacar and Vingegaard rode at the front and were among the most attacking of the leading group alongside the fiery Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert.

Dylan Teuns and Tiesj Benoot finally managed to go clear after 65 kilometers as the leading pack entered the Beaujolais wine region. The pace did not slow down and riders were scattered everywhere.

The Belgian pair was joined by a dozen rivals as the attackers finally managed to open a decent gap. The breakaway included one-day classic specialists, giving it a great chance to succeed.

The 15 men collaborated well and quickly brought a two-minute lead over the yellow jersey group, which was happy to let them go after two hours of hard-out bike racing.

The battle for the stage win started in the downhill of the Col de la Casse Froide, where Van der Poel and Andrey Amador went on their own. Amador then tried to drop Van der Poel but the Dutch rider countered and went solo.

Van der Poel crested the Col de la Croix Montmain first and pushed hard in the technical descent in a bid to increase his lead ahead of the Col de la Croix Rosier. He could not prolong his effort in the climb and was caught with 32 kilometers left, before Izagirre made his decisive move.

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