Alexander Kristoff furthered his sprint credentials with his first ever grand tour victory on a scorching stage to Saint-Étienne, pipping Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare to the line.
Melting tarmac and mangled frames
In the opening week of the Tour the riders were understandably miserable about the constant drizzle, though today they would no doubt have been delighted with such a downpour. That’s because the weather has turned full circle, from constant damp to blistering heat. The result was the same: unhappy riders, slippery surfaces and yet more crashes in a Tour already marred by abandons.
One unfortunate rider who may well have fallen victim to the melting tarmac was one of the day’s escapees, David de la Cruz (NetApp-Endura). He was in the leading group with 93km to go when he rounded a corner and hit the deck, taking fellow breakaway companion Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp) with him. Langeveld remounted and rode on, though de la Cruz became the day’s second abandon after Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) failed to make the start.
Europcar’s brief resistance
Before long, only Langeveld and Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Clarke remained of the day’s breakaway and the peloton, led by Giant-Shimano and Europcar, was gaining ground fast. Quite why the French team were working so hard on the front all became clear when Perrig Quemeneur and Cyril Gautier attacked off the front with 30km to go.
They quickly swept up Langeveld, before Gautier went on alone to join Clarke out front. However, with the Australian tired after a day in the lead, the duo’s resistance was brief. They were both swept up inside the final 5km, setting up a messy sprint finish.
Another unpredictable sprint
Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel was ruled out of the running before the sprint even began, after he was involved in a tangle with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) 3km from the line. That crash marked the start of a crazy sprint, with several teams jostling for position at the front of the peloton.
Cannondale suddenly hit the front of the bunch for their man Peter Sagan with 3km to go, but couldn’t last and were promptly usurped by Katusha. The Russian team’s burst was timed perfectly for their man Alexander Kristoff, who held off Arnaud Demare and Sagan to record Norway’s first victory at the Tour since Edvald Boasson Hagen in 2011.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Despite the chaotic final few kilometres, it was a fairly unspectacular day at the Tour. That means the only man really worthy of winning the rider of the day award is the winner himself, Alexander Kristoff. At 27 he’s certainly no spring chicken, though he’s really sprung to life at Katusha this season, and is making his prestigious win at Milan-San Remo in March look less and less a freak occurrence by the race. He’s a sprinter who really seems to be able to battle with the best in chaotic bunch finishes, and is reaping the rewards.
Stage 12 result
1. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) 4:32:11
2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) same time
3. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) s/t
4. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
5. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 51:31:34
2. Richie Porte (Sky) +2:23
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2:47
4. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +3:01
5. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +3:47
6. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +3:56
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) +3:57
8. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +4:08
9. Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +4:18
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +4:31
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
King of the Mountains leader: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Best young rider: Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Team classification: Ag2r La Mondiale.