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
Tour de France 2013: Stage reports
Stage 11: Martin wins time trial as Froome extends lead
Stage 10: Kittel takes second stage win
Stage nine: Martin wins stage as Froome fights to keep lead
Stage eight: Froome wins Tour mountains stage to take overall lead
Stage seven: Sagan scores first win of 2013 Tour
Stage six: Greipel wins as Impey moves into lead
Stage five: Cavendish wins; Gerrans keeps lead
Stage four: Orica win Tour’s team time trial to put Gerrans in yellow
Stage three: Gerrans outpaces Sagan to take win
Stage two: Millar denied yellow as Bakelants takes spoils
Stage one: Kittel wins chaotic opening stage
Tour de France 2013: Podcasts
Podcast seven (stage 10)
Podcast six (stage nine)
Podcast five (stage eight)
Podcast four (stage six)
Podcast three (stage five)
Podcast two (stage four)
Podcast one (stage one)
Tour de France 2013: Comment, analysis, blogs
Moto blog part one (July 9)
Lessons learnt by Team Sky after Tour visits Pyrenees
Was Sunday (stage nine) a missed opportunity for Froome’s rivals?
Rest day review (July 8)
Tour de France: 100 Tours, 1,000 stories
Tour de France 2013: Photo galleries
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Andy Jones
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Andy Jones
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Andy Jones
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Andy Jones
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Andy Jones
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Andy Jones
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Graham Watson