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The great Rohan Dennis mystery at the Tour de France

Simon Yates wins as GC riders hold truce on the first day in the Pyrenees

All the Tour de France action on Thursday’s first foray into the Pyrenees was among the breakaway riders, the GC men keeping their powder dry for Friday’s time trial, but the most intriguing aspect of Stage 12 was the mystery of why Bahrain Merida’s Australian Rohan Dennis abandoned the race. Simon Yates completed his Grand Tour stage win collection, triumphing from a fugitive trio. Michael Woods had yet another fall, this one with Wednesday winner Caleb Ewan, but he didn’t lose any time and stands at 50th.

The Course

It was the first day in the high mountains, one without a summit finish. However, there were two Cat. 1 mountains to climb, the second with bonus seconds on offer at the peak. First came the famous Col de Peyresourde (13.2 km of 7 percent) cresting at the 146 km point, then the Hourquette d’Ancizan (9.9 km of 7.5 percent). A 30-km descent led to the finish in Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

To the surprise of all, Rohan Dennis, who had tried to break away soon after the start in Toulouse, abandoned at the feed zone near the stage’s midway point. Dennis wasn’t having a good Tour, but was a favourite for Friday’s chrono. His team Bahrain-Merida deepened the mystery with a weird tweet that it later deleted.

Is there such as thing as Abandoned Without Leave (AWOL)?

Clearly, the Dennis Situation was distracting Twitter from the race.

It got weirder and weirder.

The Massive Breakaway on Peyresoude

Forty strong was the day’s breakaway, with green-jersey clad Peter Sagan emerging from the escape to take the intermediate sprint at the foot of Peyresourde, where the gap to the peloton was 4:45. On Peyresoude, the Sunweb contingent in the breakaway took the lead and worked to bring back Lilian Calmejane. Calmejane came to heel with Tim Wellens buttressing his KOM lead by tipping over Peyresoude first. Simon Clarke attacked on the downhill.

Hourquette d’Ancizan

Where Peyresoude kicked up, Clarke had 1:10 over the Wellens group and 6:20 over the peloton.

From his breakmates, Clarke drew some accomplished chasers, who caught him and spat him out the back. Yates tipped over the top with Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pello Bilbao joined them on the 30-km descent. Down in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, Yates simply outfoxed his Austrian and Spanish companions for the win.

At post time, the Dennis Mystery remained one.

2019 Tour de France Stage 12
1) Simon Yates (Great Britain/Mitchelton-Scott) 4:57:53
2) Pello Bilbao (Spain/Astana) s.t.
3) Gregor Mühlberger (Austria/Bora-Hansgrohe) s.t.
53) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +9:35
88) Michael Woods (Canada/EF Education First) s.t.

DNF Rohan Dennis (Australia/Bahrain-Merida)

2019 Tour de France GC
1) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) 43:27:14
2) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Team Ineos) +1:12
3) Egan Bernal (Colombia/Team Ineos) +1:16
4) Steven Kruijswijk (The Netherlands/Jumbo-Visma) +1:27
5) Emanual Buchmann (Germany/Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:45
6) Enric Mas (Spain/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +1:46
7) Adam Yates (Great Britain/Mitchelton-Scott) +1:47
8) Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar) +2:04
9) Daniel Martin (Ireland/UAE-Emirates) +2:09
10) Thibaut Pinot (France/Groupama-FDJ) +2:33
50) Michael Woods (Canada/EF Education First) +30:54
79) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) +1:14:07