Kristoff sprints to his first Tour de France stage win into Saint-Etienne

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Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has taken his first victory at a Grand Tour, winning the bunch sprint into Saint-Etienne on stage 12 of the Tour de France. Kristoff proved fastest in a slightly messy dash to the line, taking the victory ahead of perennial almost-man Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Arnaud Demare (

The big news at the start in Bourg-en-Bresse was that Garmin-Sharp’s GC contender Andrew Talansky had abandoned the race. Talansky had put in a spirited solo effort on stage 11 to finish just inside the time cut after suffering from a back injury sustained in an earlier crash. That injury ultimately ended the American’s race.

Newly crowned Dutch champion Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp) got the day’s main breakaway started when he broke clear of the peloton in the opening kilometres, and he was soon joined by Gregory Rast (Trek), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Seche) and David de la Cruz (NetApp-Endura). The leaders built up a five-minute advantage in the first 40km of racing before the intermediate sprint, with Vachon leading the breakaway across the line. Marcel Kittel was sixth after a sprint in the peloton while Peter Sagan also picked up points, building on his virtually unassailable lead in the green jersey competition.

The first of the day’s four climbs peaked 58.5km into the stage and it was David de la Cruz who took the one KOM point on offer. Back in the main field it was the familiar site of China’s first ever Tour de France rider — Cheng Ji — on the front of the main field, setting the pace for Giant-Shimano.

With 72km of racing completed and about 113km to go the five leaders had a steady gap of around 3:30 minutes. The warm conditions had riders pouring bidons of water on their faces to cool down and, in the case of Sebastian Langeveld, putting ice down his jersey.

Big crowds welcomed the riders on the second climb of the day, the Cote de Saule-d’Oingt which topped out after 102.5km. De La Cruz again led the five leaders over the top for two points, with Gregory Rast picking up the remaining point.

With 92km left to race, De La Cruz had a front-wheel puncture at the exact moment he turned a corner in the breakaway, sending the Spaniard crashing to the ground. The NetApp-Endura rider looked in great pain as he writhed by the side of the road, reports later confirming he’d abandoned the race with a broken collarbone.

Langeveld was brought down in the crash as well but he appeared to suffer no injuries, bridging back to the remaining three leaders in just a few kilometres.

The gap dropped below three minutes for the first time when the leaders had 74.3km still to race, and as the third climb of the day approached, the gap was slowly whittling away. On the 15.3km, third-category climb, Vachon was dropped from the leading group while Rast suffered the safe fate little more than a kilometre later. When Langeveld led Clarke over the Col des Brosses with 47.5km to go, the pair had an advantage of roughly 2:10 over the main field.

After a long descent and with the final climb starting 30km from the finish, Langeveld and Clarke had 1:44 over the main field. Europcar duo Cyril Gautier and Perrig Quemeneur broke clear of the peloton as the climb began and started making their way across to the two leaders.

On that final, 9.8km climb to the Cote de Grammond, Marcel Kittel dropped out of the peloton, leaving the Giant-Shimano riders to set the pace for John Degenkolb instead (if indeed that wasn’t already the plan).

Roughly 4km from the top of the climb and 26km from the finish, Simon Clarke attacked his former teammate Sebastian Langeveld. The Garmin-Sharp rider had been taking a drink when Clarke attacked and didn’t respond even when he had safely stowed his bidon. The Dutchman then began slipping back towards the peloton.

Over the top of the final climb, with 21km left to race, Clarke had just 10 seconds over the chasing pair of Quemeneur and Gautier and 1:08 over the peloton. The Australian was soon joined by the two Frenchmen, heading straight to the back of the trio to let the fresher riders do the work.

With the peloton over the final climb and the fast run to the finish underway, the gap to the three leaders started to fall. With 16.5km to go it was inside 30 seconds and with 11.3km to go it was down inside 20 seconds.

Quemeneur dropped back to the peloton just inside 10km to go while Gautier urged Clarke to come to the front and do a turn of pace. But the man from Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs either didn’t want to or wasn’t physically able, declining a number of invitations.

Gautier had eventually had enough and attacked with 6.5km to go, but he was quickly marked by Clarke. Behind them it was one rider from Lotto-Belisol leading a long line of Giant-Shimano riders as a sprint finish approached.

The peloton washed over the two leaders with 5km to go and handful of teams came to the front to set their sprinters up. A crash with 3.4km to go saw Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) lose his chance of victory, the German remonstrating with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) shortly afterwards, suggesting the Frenchman had caused the incident.

As the final kilometre approached Cannondale was all over the front for Peter Sagan and it looked like the Slovakian might finally get an elusive stage win. But when it came to the final dash for the line, Sagan wasn’t able to come around Alexander Kristoff who jumped early and was able to stay clear.

Kristoff had two second-place finishes in this year’s Tour before today and was visibly delighted to finally go one better. Meanwhile Peter Sagan now has four second places, three fourth places and has finished inside the top 10 on a total of nine occasions in the 12 stages that have been race so far. That consistency has ensured he’ll almost certainly win the points classification if he makes it to Paris, but his chances of a stage victory at this year’s race are quickly disappearing as the race heads to the Alps and Pyrenees.

Speaking of the mountains, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) still leads the KOM classification while Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) will again wear the white jersey of the best young rider on stage 13.

In the general classification, none of the big contenders lost time on the stage today and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) still leads by 2:23 over Richie Porte (Sky) and 2:47 over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Stage 13 is the first big mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France with the riders set to cover 198km from today’s finishing town of Saint-Etienne to the summit finish at Chamrousse. That final climb is 18.2km long with an average gradient of 7.3% and the stage also features two other climbs: a third-category ascent that peaks just 24km from the start, and a 14.1km first-category climb which tops out with 45.5km left to race.

Previous stage reports

– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow
– Stage 7: Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow
– Stage 8: Blel Kadri solos to stage 8 victory, Nibali holds lead after GC shakeup
– Stage 9: Tony Martin takes solo win as Tony Gallopin rides into yellow
– Stage 10: Nibali takes back yellow as Contador crashes out of the Tour de France
– Stage 11: Gallopin wins stage 11 of Le Tour after a perfectly timed late attack

Stage results

Rnk Rider Team Time
KRISTOFF Alexander KRISTOFF Alexander Team Katusha
Team Katusha 04:32:11
SAGAN Peter SAGAN Peter Cannondale
Cannondale 0:00
DÉMARE Arnaud DÉMARE Arnaud ,,
Rnk Rider Team Time
NIBALI Vincenzo NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team
Astana Pro Team 51:31:34
PORTE Richie PORTE Richie Team Sky
Team Sky 2:23
VALVERDE Alejandro VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
Movistar Team 2:47
Rnk Rider Team Points
SAGAN Peter SAGAN Peter Cannondale
Cannondale 341
COQUARD Bryan COQUARD Bryan Team Europcar
Team Europcar 189
KRISTOFF Alexander KRISTOFF Alexander Team Katusha
Team Katusha 172
Rnk Rider Team Time
BARDET Romain BARDET Romain AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R La Mondiale 51:34:35
PINOT Thibaut PINOT Thibaut 0:46
KWIATKOWSKI Michał KWIATKOWSKI Michał Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 1:38
Rnk Rider Team Points
RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim RODRÍGUEZ Joaquim Team Katusha
Team Katusha 51
VOECKLER Thomas VOECKLER Thomas Team Europcar
Team Europcar 34
MARTIN Tony MARTIN Tony Omega Pharma - Quick-Step
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 26
Rnk Team Time
AG2R La Mondiale
Astana Pro Team
Belkin-Pro Cycling Team

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