Tour de France Blog: Stage Ten – Stage Twelve
As a British cycling fan, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to become blasé. Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans attacked repeatedly and with great commitment during stages ten, eleven and twelve, yet Team Sky negated each attempt with cool efficiency.
So spent was Evans from his desperate efforts that he was dropped as Sky’s Chris Froome applied pressure during the punishing final climb of stage eleven, losing a further minute and a half on Bradley Wiggins and leaving Nibali as the Briton’s closest rival, with the Italian sat 2:23 down in third place. Indeed, the fact that Wiggins himself was dropped as Froome tightened the screw during Thursday’s stage indicated yet again that seemingly the only other person capable of winning the Tour comes from within Team Sky's ranks, with the Kenyan-born rider now sitting in second place.
A further assertion of British dominance came with David Millar’s victory in stage twelve, his first Tour stage win in nine years, and his first since returning to the sport from a two year drug ban. When the Scot confidently outsprinted his breakaway companion Jean-Christophe Peraud he became, incredibly, the fourth British stage winner in this year’s race; encouragingly, all four will play part of the five man team hoping to ensure a British gold medal in the Olympic road race. On a more poignant note, his victory came upon the anniversary of the tragic death of Tommy Simpson, who died of a combination of exhaustion, heat, and the amphetamines and alcohol in his system when climbing Mont Ventoux in the 1967 edition of the race. As a reformed ex-doper, Millar’s win provided an emotive reminder of the narrow line between tragedy and redemption offered by the sport.
With Sky content to shadow Wiggins’ nearest rivals, stages ten and eleven were also won from breakaways, giving the French Team Europcar a chance to shine. Last year, the team provided some of the most iconic moments of the race: the charismatic Thomas Voeckler clung doggedly to the yellow jersey for ten days and almost completed an astonishing overall victory, whilst the promising climber Pierre Rolland secured the white jersey, including a stylish victory in the race’s Queen Stage to the Alpe D’Huez. This year, both had been largely anonymous. However, Voeckler burst into life on the tough climb which ended stage ten to outstrip Michele Scarponi, with Rolland again displaying his class on the toughest mountain stages to win an assured solo victory in stage eleven, beating the main field by almost a minute. The pressure upon Europcar has now been lifted, and the 2012 Tour can be considered a great success for the team.