The spell was finally broken for 30-year-old Van Avermaet, one of the best riders of the opening week until the mountain stages began. Van Avermaet came close a couple of times, but just missed it. The spell is also broken for Belgian riders in general, as it's the first Belgian stage win after some 50 Tour de France stages. Jan Bakelants was the last Belgian to win a stage in the Tour, as he won the second stage in 2013, in Ajaccio on Corsica.
The win will be a mental boost for Van Avermaet, a classic rider who built a reputation as "the Eternal Second", a good rider but one who always misses the top prize.
Van Avermaet did manage to win the team time trial with BMC last Sunday. He is becoming a dad in about a week's time but decided to come to the Tour despite this. It was worth it.
A 'Belgian' day
It was clearly a 'Belgian' day in the Tour of France, with Bakelants taking third place. Earlier, the traditional long breakaway of the day included a group with a Belgian rider.
Three riders accelerated from this group in the final 10 kilometres: Cyril Gautier of France, Wilco Kelderman of the Netherlands and Belgium's Thomas De Ghendt of Lotto-Soudal. The 3 seemed to have good cards to battle it out for victory, but were gobbled up by the peloton in the final kilometre. Another missed chance for a Belgian win, it seemed, but then Van Avermaet popped up.
In a breathtaking uphill finish, Van Avermaet took the lead early in a very long spring. The East-Fleming was only followed by Peter Sagan, who looked set to jump out of Van Avermaet's wheel just before the finish.
However, van Avermaet stood strong and surprised Sagan, who had to be content with yet another second place. One could say that with his win, Van Avermaet managed the impossible: he beat a specialist uphill finisher such as Sagan although the Slovak was in a perfect position in Van Avermaet's wheel, and he also broke the spell, taking a very big win, something that seemed to be haunted. Van Avermaet has been hunting a big classic victory in spring for years.
Sagan increases his lead for the green jersey, while Chris Froome (Sky) keeps the yellow leader's jersey.
The 13th stage took the riders from Muret to Rodez in southern France, over a hilly 198.5 km course. Weather conditions were tough, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius.