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Tour de France - Cycling: Stage 12 preview

It's the Alpe d'Huez stage on Thursday with the big names sure to excite and no fewer than three hors categories climbs highlighting the 165.1 km route.

To add to the excitement, 14th July is also Bastille Day. France's biggest holiday is a national celebration and the home riders will be desperate to show themselves.

However, the favourites were out in force on Wednesday and Jonas Vingegaard emerged the strongest, taking a stunning win on the Col du Granon to grab the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

The Dane's fabulous attack saw him open up a two minute, 16 second lead on Romain Bardet, as Tadej Pogacar slipped to third on a day that, possibly for the first time in his career, he cracked.

It is another huge day on Thursday and the plotlines are many. Will Pogacar respond? Can Vingegaard back it up? And can a French rider win?

The 2022 Tour de France at bet365

WhatTour de France, Stage 12
WhereBriancon to Alpe d'Huez
When13:05 UK Time, Thursday 14th July
How to watchLive on ITV4, Eurosport, Discovery+ & GCN+

Stage 12 route details

The headline fact is, of course, that stage 12 concludes on Alpe d'Huez. Arguably the most iconic climb used in the Tour, Geraint Thomas was the last man to win there on the way to overall glory in 2018, triumphing during a late dash after he and the other big names had successfully tackled the famous 21 hairpins.

With it Bastille Day, the French riders will be out in force and Warren Barguil, Pierre Rolland and Thibaut Pinot have all succeeded here in the past.

However, 14th July hasn't always been kind to the locals, with Barguil's success in 2017 the last and breaking a run that stretched back to David Moncoutie in 2005.

The riders will need to get to Alpe d'Huez first, with the Col du Galibier and Col de la Croix de Fer also both 'hors categorie', or 'beyond categorisation' and evenly spaced to open the opportunities for long-range attacks.

That might be how the big guns play it early in a bid to ride Pogacar out of the race.

The climbers will take centre stage, with the current King of the Mountains Simon Geschke likely to be involved in the breakaway but the final climb's mythical status suggests the big names will be looking to make a statement.

Three to watch

Geraint Thomas

That win in 2018 will only boost Thomas' belief that he can strike again aboard Alpe d'Huez. The Welshman has enjoyed a fine Tour to date, tracking the favourites and limiting his losses.

With Tom Pidcock and Adam Yates also high in the GC, Ineos Grenadiers have a trump card in that they can send one of their trio up the road and force the other favourites to chase before repeating the trick with another of their riders.

Thomas has said throughout the Tour that he is feeling quietly confident about his condition and that he has been happy to sit back and let the others do battle.

At 36, he no longer has time on his side but as he showed in winning the recent Tour de Suisse, the 'G' remains as dangerous as ever.

Thibaut Pinot

Another former conqueror of Alpe d'Huez, Pinot has been there or thereabouts in the Tour, most notably on Sunday, but is still to get the job done.

With Groupama-FDJ leader David Gaudu going well in GC, he might be given licence to attack on Thursday and looks the best option of the French riders who could go on the offensive.

Pinot's riding style ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous but it is on uphill finishes where he excels and, at 32, his chances are running out to make another statement at the Tour.

With him 32nd in the overall and with 25 minutes to make up on Vingegaard, the favourites are unlikely to chase him, while there is also scope for him to go up the road and wait for Gaudu.

That's not in his make-up, though, and this stage, on Bastille Day, could be perfect for him.

Bauke Mollema

One thing cycling fans know Alpe d'Huez for is the huge number of Dutch fans who make it their basecamp throughout the Tour.

That could give their riders a boost and Bauke Mollema, a two-time Tour stage winner, fits into that category.

The most recent of those was last year and having failed to make an impact so far in the Tour, may have been keeping himself fresh for Thursday.

Mollema will be cheered all the way up d'Huez by the 'Oranje tifosi' and could be the value choice.

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