UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar maintained his overall lead after stage 12 of the Tour de France but the day belonged to German Nils Politt who claimed the biggest win of his career.
Politt prevailed after early winds helped a breakaway build-up a convincing lead over the main pack in the Rhone Valley while Slovenian Pogacar leads second-placed Rigoberto Uran by five minutes and 18 seconds in the general classification.
Politt attacked from within this reduced group, making his decisive attack 11.8km from the line for a dominant solo victory.
“Directly after the start was the wind and it turned into a Tour de France win, it's unbelievable,” said Politt, who rides for the Bora-Hansgrohe team.
“I attacked and opened up a gap from the other guys in the escape. This is my passion, and this is the biggest thing.
“It's a dream to win a stage of the Tour de France. Today we heard Peter had to leave the race with knee problems so that changed our tactics. At the start with the crosswinds it was a big group that got away.
“I felt good in the last few days, I was trying to do my best today but to come away with a victory is unbelievable.”
Spain's Imanol Erviti was second, with Australian Harry Sweeny third, both 31 seconds behind.
Overall leader Pogacar crossed the line safely in the bunch, almost 16 minutes behind but the top positions in the general classification remained unchanged.
Politt's victory gives his Bora-Hansgrohe team something to cheer about after triple world champion Peter Sagan pulled out with a knee injury before the start of the day's racing.
Slovakian Sagan said he would take some rest hoping to be ready for the Tokyo Olympics road race on July 24.
Crosswinds created splits in the peloton in a fast and furious start before a 13-man breakaway took shape while the pace was controlled by Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates.
In the front group, Politt attacked first with 40km remaining and there were four left to contest the stage win — Politt, Swiss Stefan Kung, Erviti and Sweeny.
Kung was dropped in a short climb before Politt went solo to take his second professional victory, two years after he had finished second in the Paris-Roubaix classic.
Meanwhile, 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.
Cavendish, a stage winner in Nimes before, might have known it was not to be his day in the morning when race organisers failed to deliver the green skinsuit he favours, forcing him to ride in a less aerodynamic jersey.
In terms of when his next chance might come, Friday's stage to Carcassonne is another flat one on paper, though the citadel has never in Tour history witnessed a bunch finish and with more crosswinds predicted it could be another one for the breakaway.
That would leave Cavendish needing to survive the Pyrenees before the next sprint opportunity comes on stage 19 to Libourne.