ANNONAY, France - British veteran David Millar led a five-man breakaway to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France on Friday as the race left the Alps on the longest stage this year.
His compatriot, Bradley Wiggins, retained the yellow jersey as he kept pace with his main rivals in the pack 7 minutes, 54 seconds back of the breakaway bunch.
The 226-kilometer ride from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay-Davezieux featured two big climbs.
Millar, a 35-year-old Scot, punched the air as he edged Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud at the line in their two-man sprint - just seconds ahead of three others also in the breakaway.
Millar collected his fourth career Tour stage victory, and his first since 2003. He also became the fourth Briton to win a Tour stage this year, after Mark Cavendish, Christopher Froome and Wiggins.
The victory was also a vindication for Millar's Garmin-Sharp team, which had a terrible first week by losing two top riders to crashes: Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal of Canada and Tom Danielson of the United States.
As for him and his fellow British riders looking so strong ahead of the Olympics in London, Millar said: "Yeah, I think we're at the top," referring to himself as "the old dog" of the bunch.
Putting his race savvy to work, Millar sped out ahead of the four others in the breakaway with about 2 kilometers to go, and Peraud chased. In the last kilometer, it was a two-man battle for the stage win.
Millar kept looking back at Peraud, tight on the Briton's wheel. With a few hundred meters, the Frenchman struck and wheeled around, but it was not enough as the Scottish veteran beat him to the line.
Millar also noted that his stage victory came 45 years to the day after British rider Tom Simpson died on the slopes of Mount Ventoux in 1967.
Millar, who was once banned from riding for doping earlier in his career, has since become one of the pack's most vocal riders about how it's possible to win clean.
"I'm an ex-doper, and I'm clean now - and I want to show everyone that it's possible to win clean on the Tour," Millar said.
The race heads toward the Mediterranean on Saturday for France's July 14 national holiday - Bastille Day - with a 217-kilometer jaunt from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to the coastal resort of Le Cap d'Agde, known for its nudist colony.
A series of small but challenging climbs late on Friday's stage of the 2012 Giro d'Italia could not stop Britain's Mark Cavendish taking his fourth stage win and second in two days.
BUSSETO, Italy (Reuters) - Defending Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal has withdrawn from this year's race, the Canadian's Garmin-Sharp team announced before the start of Friday's stage 13.
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