Text by Christian Camerota
Though the leaderboard remained largely the same, it took quite a bit to keep it that way.
Lance Armstrong suffered a flat rear tire that halted his progress late in the 211.5-kilometer ride from Tonnerre to Vittel, the second longest of the Tour so far. It took four teammates to help Armstrong catch back up to the peloton, which, despite a grueling early pace, was hindered by the hot weather and finished nearly six minutes behind stage winner Nicki Sorensen of Denmark.
Sorensen won the 12th stage going away, pulling away from a duel with Laurent Lefevre of France with just under 6 kilometers left and finished 45 seconds ahead of the lagging second place rider. Despite the conception that many riders would concede victory today to conserve energy for tomorrrow's challenging mountainous leg, the generally flat course was anything but restful.
"Today was not an easy stage," said overall leader Rinaldo Nocentini. "We rode the first two hours at an incredible speed, then the seven-rider break took off with Sorensen the most dangerous overall…I hope tomorrow will be an easier day."
Nocentini's hopes are not likely to be fully answered, as Stage 13 promises to be tricky and technical with no fewer than four noteworthy climbs. Riders received somewhat of a reprieve today, however, as Tour officials decided to rescind the radio ban they had previously placed on Friday's competition. The move came in response to a number of complaints the officials fielded from riders and team spokespeople alike, citing the lack of radio contact during such an aggressive and circuitous route as a great danger to those involved.
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Before today's race began, Armstrong also expressed some reservations about the Tour's flat stages so far. After several crashes on Wednesday that left 19 riders injured, and a crash in Stage 11 that forced Faria Da Costa from the Tour with torn ligaments in his shoulder, such perils are high on the mind of the seven-time champion.
"It is stressful with the crashes, on a stage like this where you have nothing to gain and then you lose everything because of a crash or a split in the group…that is something which keeps you up at night. You have to constantly pay attention."