Biniam Girmay takes his third stage win of the Tour de France

Biniam Girmay took his third stage win of the Tour de France to continue his dominance of the sprints as Primoz Roglic’s bid for yellow was all but ended on stage 12 to Villeneuve-sur-Lot.

Girmay beat Wout van Aert in a somewhat messy sprint that saw commissaires relegate Arnaud Demare and Sir Mark Cavendish from third and fifth place respectively.

But there was then a more than two-minute wait for Roglic to finish after the Slovenian crashed around 10km from the end, falling nearly five minutes behind race leader Tadej Pogacar overall.

Girmay was already the only rider in the race with more than one stage win in this Tour, and he made it a hat-trick despite having plenty of ground to make up in the finale after the lead-out trains became uncoupled on a technical finish to the 204km stage from Aurillac.

“I knew I could do good results if I have the right wheels and I’ve proved in the last three sprints I can win,” Girmay said.

“In the end when everyone came together I felt super good, and I said in the radio I feel super good so if you give me the support I can deliver.”

The win puts Girmay in a commanding position in the points classification and, with Friday’s stage to Pau one of only two real opportunities left for the sprinters, the green jersey looks to be his to keep if he makes it to Nice.

“Since I’ve started to wear this jersey, somehow I’ve felt super fast, especially in my mind,” Girmay added. “I just believe I can prove I am the best.”

Cavendish, missing his primary lead-out man Michael Morkov due to Covid, had tried to come off the Eritrean’s wheels in the finale but the road would not open up for the Manxman, who was subsequently relegated for deviating from his line.

This was supposed to be a day for the general classification contenders to take a breath after Wednesday’s battle in the Massif Central, but things changed with a crash 10km from the finish.

Alexey Lutsenko tumbled over an island in the middle of the road and the incident caused several riders to hit the deck.

Roglic, who also crashed in the final metres of Wednesday’s stage but avoided a time loss as it was inside the final three kilometres, was among them.

His Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates were grouped around him as they set off again, but their demeanour was not one of a team desperately chasing to get back as Roglic, his jersey torn and right shoulder bloodied, slipped down the standings.

Pogacar continued to lead by 66 seconds from Remco Evenepoel, with defending champion Jonas Vingegaard a further six seconds back in third. But Roglic fell from fourth to sixth, now four minutes 42 seconds down.

It was another attritional day as reports and rumours of illness continue to swirl in the race.

A day after an under-the-weather Fred Wright missed the time cut, Bahrain-Victorious also lost leader Pello Bilbao, who climbed into the team car midway through the stage, shortly after Fabio Jakobsen had also abandoned.

Astana-Qazaqstan announced before the race that Morkov had left the race, and Cavendish then said in a pre-stage interview with Eurosport that he believed other riders are continuing to ride with Covid.