Mark Cavendish’s record-equalling bid put on hold as Nils Politt solos to Tour de France stage win 

Mark Cavendish was made to wait for his chance to match Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage wins as the breakaway had their day on Thursday.

Nils Politt took the honours after a frantic start in windy conditions allowed a powerful 13-man group to get away, putting paid to an anticipated bunch finish at the end of the 159 kilometres stage 12 into Nimes.

The breakaway began to splinter inside the last 50km, and the decisive move came when Politt rode clear of Harry Sweeny and Imanol Erviti with 12km to go, soloing to the finish for his first Tour stage win.

Mark Cavendish was made to wait to match Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins

Cavendish, who moved on to 33 stage wins with his third of this year’s race in Valence on Tuesday, led home the main peloton some 16 minutes later, padding his lead in the green jersey by picking up the final three points, while Tadej Pogacar retained yellow.

With the Mistral wind gusting, organisers delayed the start in anticipation of a high pace, and the attacks flew at the start.

But once the group containing the likes of Politt, Julian Alaphilippe, Edwald Boasson Hagen, Brent Van Moer and Stefan Beissegger had started to build a significant advantage, the peloton sat up and let them go.

Nils Politt took the honours after a frantic start in windy conditions on Thursday

Pogacar continues to lead overall by five minutes and 18 seconds from Rigoberto Uran, with Jonas Vingegaard third a further 14 seconds back.

Politt’s victory will have cheered his Bora-Hansgrohe team after their three-time former world champion Peter Sagan was forced to withdraw from the race before the stage start with a knee injury.

‘It’s a dream to win a stage of the Tour de France,’ Politt said. ‘Today at the start we heard Peter had to leave the race with knee problems so that changed our tactics.

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