Tour de France 2024 stage 12 preview - a contest between the sprinters and the breakaway

It is a stage of two halves, but who will cross the line victorious?

Date: Thursday July 11, 2024 
Distance: 204km
Start location: Aurillac
Finish location: Villeneuve-sur-Lot
Start time: 12:35 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:16 CET

About half of France’s umbrellas are produced in Aurillac, the small town where stage 12 sets off from. While that apparatus might make a booming trade here for much of the year, given its oceanic climate and relatively high amount of rainfall, during July Aurillac is, like most of France during Tour time, blessed with sunshine. The extreme weather protocol is more likely to be called upon for excessive heat than stormy rain, and coping with the heat can be an essential part of competing for the yellow jersey, and something that many — notably home favourite Thibaut Pinot — have struggled with over the years.

The climate here is also good for cultivating cheese, and the riders will pass through Rocamadour, a small, picturesque town strikingly built on the face of a cliff, that gives its name to an AOC cheese that’s distinctively soft and creamy. From there they will continue to head westwards until arriving at Villeneuve-sur-Lot for the finish, which in the nineteenth century was known for the somewhat less exotic culinary items of preserved plums and tinned peas and beans. 

The Tour de France last visited Villeneuve-sur-Lot in 2000, when Erik Dekker claimed the first of a remarkable three stage haul he achieved that year, and a rider in his mould might fancy their chances of a stage win today. Although the parcours are mostly flat, with only three small categorised climbs to deal with all day and a manageable 2,200 metres of elevation gain, there are plenty of factors to encourage breakaway specialists. Much of the day’s climbing is concentrated in the first half of the stage before they head out of the undulating terrain of the Massif Central, therefore, the terrain is there early in the day for a strong group of puncheurs and rouleurs to attack and form a breakaway group made up of strong riders that will be difficult to being back. And as the last of the four stages of this year’s race to exceed 200km, this is a long, attritional stage which sprinters’ teams may find difficult to control and arduous to make the chase. 

That said, with only one other chance for a bunch to finish tomorrow before the race enters the Pyrenees, the sprinters’ teams will be reluctant to let this opportunity slip, so there should be plenty of incentive and desire among them to organise a chase. Either way, far from being a dull, flat stage, expect plenty of action and entertainment — first in the early battle to get into the break, then in the subsequent chase between the peloton and the breakaway. 

Route profile sourced via ASO

Contenders

With the pressure now off his shoulders, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) will be heading into this stage much more relaxed. After a long opening week, he started the second week of this year’s Tour with a bang, securing the stage win in Saint-Amand-Montrond. With a boost in confidence, not just for him, but also his team, and the ability to climb well – he won this year’s Milan-Sanremo and came second at Paris-Roubaix – he will be one of the favourites to take this stage. 

But one rider who Philipsen will be keeping a keen eye on will be Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty). He is on fine form this race, leading in the points classification and already securing two stage wins, and also boasts the ability to climb well on hillier terrain. Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny) will hope he can have a better performance than the last sprint opportunity, where he placed 17th. He’s looked on the edge of a victory, placing in the top five across four stages, two of which have been third-place podiums. He has just lacked the winning kick that sees him cross the line first, but he is strong on lumpy terrain for a sprinter, and will be wanting a stage win in his Tour debut. 

Michael Matthews (Jayco Alula) also thrives on this type of terrain, packing a punch in a sprint but also able to get up and over steep ascents. Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) was in the mix for the last sprint opportunity, and as an all-rounder, he could take the stage here. He’s come to the Tour with the task of protecting his GC rider, but is able to go for his own opportunities.

If the breakaway can keep away and take the win, we expect riders such as Magnus Cort (Uno-X Mobility), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Stephen Williams (Israel-Premier Tech) and Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) to be in with a chance of taking the stage win.

Stage 12 winner prediction

We think Biniam Girmay will make it a Tour de France hat-trick and win his third stage victory. 

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