Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) took his third stage win of the 2013 Tour de France, edging Mark Cavendish in another hotly-contested bunch sprint.
Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) looked to have sealed the victory when he jumped ahead of lead-out man Gert Steegmans and began his sprint, but the German sprinter emerged from his slipstream and pipped him on the line.
The result came as a shock, as it marks a rare occasion where a sprinter has managed to get the better of the Manx Missile in a straightforward mano-a-mano dash to the line.
Omega’s sprint train could not be blamed for their leader’s failure to win a stage, having delivered a perfect lead-out. They jostled with Argos’s train in the run-in, and both were able to plant their sprinters in an ideal position for the final sprint.
A crash had disrupted the run-in, with Andre Greipel (Lotto) the biggest name to go down, but there was however no change in the GC, as the pile-up occurred within the final three kilometres.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) held on to his green jersey with a third place finish, while Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre) were fourth and fifth respectively.
A frenetic early pace saw the riders arrive at the line well before the expected time of arrival. Eventually a break of five was established, consisting of Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil), Manuele Mori (Lampre), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and never looked like staying clear, especially when they began attacking each other with 30 or so kilometres to go.
But Flecha didn’t give up without a fight, attacking from the break in the closing stages and holding off the bunch until the six kilometre to go point.
Chris Froome (Sky) survived the day unscathed, and will wear the yellow jersey for a fifth consecutive stage tomorrow, where the peloton will tackle another flat stage from Tours into St Amand Montround.
Tour de France 2013, stage 12: Fougères to Tours, 218km
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos-Shimano in 4-53-25
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre
6. Daryl Impey (Rsa) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Jose Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar
8. Yohann Gene (Fra) Europcar
9. Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r all same time
General classification after stage 12
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky in 47-19-13
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 3-25
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 3-37
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff at 3-54
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at 3-57
6. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin at 4-10
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 4-44
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 5-18
9. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar at 5-37
10. Jean Christophe Péraud (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 5-39
Marcel Kittel edges out Mark Cavendish in Tours to take his third stage
Edvald Boasson Hagen was one of those injured in a late crash
Marcel Kittel on the podium
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Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Andy Jones
Stage nine by Graham Watson
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Stage seven by Andy Jones
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Stage six by Andy Jones
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Stage five by Andy Jones
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Stage one by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Graham Watson