Moncoutié takes timely win for French

Finally the home nation have a win, and on Bastille Day to boot, thanks to Cofidis climber David Mon

Finally the home nation have a win, and on Bastille Day to boot, thanks to Cofidis climber David Mon

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

There had been precious little for the French to crow about so far in the Tour, the one notable highlight being the renaissance late in his career of Christophe Moreau, who currently stands third overall. The 34-year-old Crdit Agricole rider was the only home rider in the top 30 going into today's Bastille Day stage that took the race bumping through the southern Alps.

Being France's national day, though, it was always likely that the home teams would attempt to put on a show, and all of them tried to. Three of those teams were represented in what became the break of the day, when 13 riders came together on the descent of prettily named Cote des Demoiselles Coiffes after 65km.

The break was initiated by two Spaniards, their national champion Juamna Garate (Saunier Duval) going clear and being quickly joined by Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros). Nine more riders were soon across to them, including locals David Moncouti (Cofidis), Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) and Patrice Halgand (Crdit Agricole). The nine were then joined by two more riders from French teams as points jersey contenders Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) and Thor Hushovd (Crdit Agricole) sprinted across from the yellow jersey group.

That descent also saw Discovery Channel lose their first rider of this race. Manuel Beltran crashed heavily, got back on his bike and received some attention, but quit soon after.

There were four more climbs in the Alpes de Haute Provence, and on the penultimate, the second-cat Col du Corobin, the attacks began within the lead group. Axel Merckx was very active at this point, and a victory by the Belgian would have been a story in itself as his father won a stage between Briancon and Digne back in 1969.

But after Merckx's third dig had been nullified by Halgand and Garate, Moncouti took advantage of the lull to make his second bid for freedom and this time there was a crucial delay before what was now just seven riders organised a chase after the Frenchman. Moncouti is widely regarded as one of the best climbers around, and arguably the best in France, and he pushed his advantage to 30 seconds at the summit of the Corobin.

The chasing group's best chance was to reel him in during the 20-odd kilometres between the Corobin and the final fourth-cat climb, the Col de l'Orme, just 10k from the finish, but they never got closer than 25 seconds of the Frenchman. Vicioso and Casar did all they could to organise the chase down into Digne, but to no avail.

Moncouti, a stage winner in Figeac on July 15 last year, had plenty of time to celebrate in front of the huge holiday crowds that had turned out hoping to see the first French victory of this race. The beaming Moncouti gave them that, while Casar finished as runner-up, just holding off Vicioso in the final sprint.

A couple of minutes later Hushovd led in O'Grady for ninth place and confirmed himself in the points jersey, while Robbie McEwen led the bunch in with Lance Armstrong safely in the pack behind him. Tomorrow's transitional stage to Montpellier should see the focus return to battle for the green jersey, with McEwen really needing a win to get himself back into contention.

Stage 12, Briancon-Digne les Bains

1 David Moncouti (Fra) Cofidis 187km in 4.20.06 (43.14kph)
2 Sandy Casar (Fra) Franaise des Jeux 0.57
3 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros
4 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Crdit Agricole
5 Jos Luis Arrieta (Spa) Illes Balears
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
7 Axel Merckx (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
8 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 3.15
10 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis

14 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 10.33
18 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
23 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
31 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
34 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
35 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
40 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears
41 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
43 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
44 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole
45 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
46 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
47 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
49 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile
50 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
53 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
54 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak
62 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
68 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
84 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
96 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
97 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears
104 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r
139 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
144 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval

DNF Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
DNS Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step

Overall standings

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 46.30.36
2 Rasmussen 0.38
3 Moreau 2.34
4 Basso 2.40
5 Valverde 3.16
6 Botero 3.48
7 Leipheimer 3.58
8 Mancebo 4.00
9 Ullrich 4.02
10 Klden 4.16
11 Landis
12 Vinokourov 4.47

14 Evans 5.55
17 Julich 6.37
21 Rogers 9.10
24 Hincapie 12.15
29 Horner 15.22
57 O'Grady 51.18
67 McGee 56.53
112 Roberts 1.34.42
113 White 1.34.52
118 Rodriguez 1.41.16
119 Davis 1.41.30
133 McEwen 1.50.27
141 Cooke 1.53.44
148 Gerrans 1.57.16

Points

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 142
2 O'Grady 120
3 McEwen 107
4 Vinokourov 81
5 Bernhard Eisel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux 69
6 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 66

King of the Mountains

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 160
2 Moreau 89
3 Botero 88
4 Vinokourov 71
5 Armstrong 40
6 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 34

Young rider: Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
Team: CSC

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