The French waited for Bastille Day to capture their first victory in the 92nd Tour de France, with David Moncoutie of Cofidis breaking away with 24 miles to go, holding on to a 57-second lead until he crossed the line in Digne-les-Bains. Three of the four top finishers of the day were French.
David Moncoutie celebrates his Stage 12 win Thursday.
Lance Armstrong took the French national holiday to rest in the peloton, finishing 41st in the stage, ten minutes behind the day's leaders, none of whom pose a threat to the overall standings.
While Armstrong retains the yellow jersey heading into another relatively flat stage tomorrow, there won't be much celebration tonight among Team Discovery Channel. Manuel Beltran, a Spaniard, crashed in the peloton at about 37 miles.
Beltran seemed dazed but continued riding for several miles before he was pulled off the road.
"He hit his head pretty hard," Discovery Team director Johan Bruyneel told the Outdoor Life Network (OLN). "After a while, he didn't even realize he was crashed. The race doctor told him he should stop."
Beltran is the first of Armstrong's Discovery or U.S. Postal teammates not to finish the Tour since 2001, and the loss comes just before the racers swing towards the crucial stages in the Pyrenees, where Beltran, known also by his nickname, "Triki," was expected to excel.
"It could be very critical because with the days coming, and the three tough days in the Pyrenees, we don't want to lose any climbers and Triki is one of our pure climbers," Armstrong told OLN. "We have to look to [the others] to pick up the stack."
Injuries are starting to take their toll on the Tour's riders.
Quick Step-Davitamon's Tom Boonen, who has worn the green jersey since the end of Stage 2, quit the Tour on the starting line today after injuring his knee in a crash yesterday. That hands the jersey to Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd, who also started the day complaining of severe muscle pain, according to the Tour de France's official Web site. The Norwegian is 12 points ahead of Cofidis' Stuart O'Grady, whom he beat in a sprint for ninth place today.
Another rider in pain this morning wore the white jersey. Alejandro Valverde of Illes Balears started the day complaining of an injured knee, according to the Tour Web site.
Mickael Rasmussen of Denmark retained the polka dot jersey, still 38 seconds behind Armstrong in second place.