Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the first Tour de France stage of his career in a hotly-contested bunch sprint on stage 12.
The Norwegian – who won Milan-San Remo earlier this season – used Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s train to lead him out, and opened his sprint early.
He was able to hold off a late dash to the line from Peter Sagan (Cannondale) who finished second half a bike length behind, while French national champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) finished third.
The stage will go down as another disappointment for Sagan, who again just misses out on a stage win. His Cannondale team had moved to the front in the final few kilometres and established a six-man train. However, his train disintegrated in the final kilometre, and the Slovakian was left to fend for himself in the sprint.
A crash in the final few kilometres ruled Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) out of contention, who could be heard on the TV camera blaming Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) for the fall. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) were both dropped on the earlier climb.
It was a hot day for the peloton, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees and many bidons being consumed.
Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin), Florian Vachon (Bretagne), Gregory Rast (Trek), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) and David De La Cruz (NetApp) made up the break of the day, which gradually broke up as the day developed. First De La Cruz suffered a crash and was forced to abandon, then Vachon and Rast were dropped on the penultimate climb, and finally Langeveld, who was attacked by Clarke as he was absent-mindedly taking a drink.
On the final climb, Europcar – who had set the pace for much of the day – sent Cyril Gautier and Perrig Quemeneur up the road. Shortly after cresting the summit, the pair caught Clarke, and the trio worked hard to hold off an onrushing peloton.
Tired from setting the pace for Gautier, Quemeneur was dropped, and the remaining duo could only survive until the five-kilometre-to-go point until the peloton caught them.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and the rest of the GC riders are finished safely in the bunch, although Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) slips from fifth to 20th overall after being dropped.
Tour de France 2014, stage12: Bourg-en—Bresse to Saint Etienne, 185.5km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
3. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
4. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge
5. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp
6. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
7. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
8. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC
9. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r
10. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar all same time
Overall classification after stage 11
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 2-23
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 2-47
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 3-01
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 3-47
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 3-56
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r at 3-57
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 4-08
9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 4-18
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4-31
12. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 5-17
111. Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) at 1-33-26