Tour de France: Britain's Yates wins Stage 12, Alaphilippe retains yellow jersey

Simon Yates put a disappointing Giro d'Italia campaign behind him when he won the 12th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday, as the main title contenders stayed quiet in the first Pyrenean climbs of this year's race.

With an individual time trial scheduled for Friday, none of the top guns attacked, and 40 riders broke away from the peloton in the 209.5-km ride from Toulouse.

Vuelta champion Yates was arguably the strongest climber of the group and he also proved the fastest in a small-committee sprint to complete his set of grand tour stage wins after winning three times in the Giro d'Italia and twice at the Vuelta a Espana.

France's Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall leader's yellow jersey with a 1:12-minute advantage over defending champion Geraint Thomas.

Tim Wellens, part of the breakaway, consolidated his lead in the mountains classification by reaching the top of the Col de Peyresourde (13km at 7%) first.

Yates, Austrian Gregor Muehlberger and Spain's Pello Bilbao were alone in front at the top of the last ascent of the day, the Hourquette d'Ancizan (10km at 7.5%), and they stayed ahead in the final descent into Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

Yates took the final bend first and, with only 100 metres left, held a decisive advantage in a three-man sprint with Bilbao finishing second and Muehlberger third.

In contrast to his twin brother and Mitchelton-Scott team mate Adam, Yates has no ambitions in the general classification this year after finishing eighth in the Giro after starting the Italian race targeting the overall victory.

"I wasn't very confident in beating them. I didn't know how fast these two riders were but my sports director told me to take the last corner in first position and I'm glad it worked out well," the 26-year-old Yates told reporters.

"To have won a stage at all three Grand Tours makes me very proud. This was probably a unique opportunity for me to achieve it this year.

"My main goal is to help Adam in the mountains and we thought that wouldn't be needed today, that's why I took the breakaway. After (teammate) Daryl Impey's win the other day, we're having a fantastic Tour and hopefully it will continue."

The spotlight will switch back to the overall contenders for Friday's 13th stage, when Thomas will look to gain more time over his main rivals in the 27.2-km time trial in Pau.

Adam Yates will be one of the riders to watch after he flew off the radar in the opening block of racing.

He lies seventh overall, 1:47 behind Alaphilippe, and his sports director Matt White believes the climber can limit the damage in the time trial.

"Ending up within 30 seconds of Thomas would be a good result I think," White said.

Elsewhere, Rohan Dennis went AWOL for over an hour after abandoning the Tour de France and his Bahrain Merida team management had no explanation about the Australian's withdrawal on Thursday.

Time trial world champion Dennis, one of the favourites for Friday's individual effort against the clock, pulled out 80km from the finish of the 12th stage, organisers said.

The Australian's team, Bahrain Merida, were unable to locate him for over an hour and he was eventually spotted with his bike parked against the team bus near the finish line.

According to French TV, Dennis was seen arguing with his team car before climbing off his bike but sports director Gorazd Stangelj told reporters he 'knew nothing about it'.

"We are also confused. I'm disappointed about what happened. We actually expected a big effort from him tomorrow," Stangelj added.

"It was his decision today to stop in the feed zone. We tried to speak with him. He said I don't want to talk and just abandoned the race.

"His condition is not bad, he's good enough to perform at the Tour de France. For sure it has nothing to do with his condition."

Asked whether Dennis was hard to work with, Slovenian Stangelj said: "I didn't have any problem with him this season. He is a special guy, let's say all the champions are, he is really 100% when he wants something and it's difficult to make everyone 100% happy at the same moment.

"Now is the time to clear things up, to make decisions for the future," he added, however stressing it was too soon to tell whether there would be 'consequences' for Dennis.