Tour de France 2013 Stage 12
Fougeres to Tours 218km


Transitional stages, and Stage Twelve's 218km (136mi) ride from Fourgeres to Tours, was definitely one, are rarely given their due. What makes them a transition is that the route is pretty much a straight line, pretty much flat, and is taking the riders from one major objective, in this case a time trial, to another, in this case the Alps. They're very important to the race. Not only are they tiring, mounting fatigue is an essential element to Grand Tours, but they can also be places where the race is lost. And this is both for overall contenders as well as Green Jersey hunters.

The finish in Tours is the second to last sprinter-friendly stage of the race. As such, the teams of Argos-Shimano, Lotto-Belisol, and Omega Pharma-Quickstep all had an interest in controlling the race. Keeping it all together for Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, and Mark Cavendish respectively would give each of these fast-twitch riders a shot at a stage win today and the Maillot Vert in Paris. Peter Sagan and his Cannondale Pro Cycling teammates, in contrast, would be happy to see a breakaway survive and then set up the Slovak, currently decked out in Green as the Points leader, to snatch whatever points he can.

So when the day's break rolled out 5km (3.1mi) into the stage, there was little chance it would see the finish. That didn't mean the five didn't try. The last of their lot, Vacansoleil's Juan-Antonio Flecha resisted until six kilometers (3.7mi) remained until the finish.

Flecha was the most animated of the group. He also worked the hardest to snag points at the intermediate sprint, though he was overtaken by Astana's Francesco Gavazzi just before the line. Behind them, Omega Pharma led out Cavendish for sixth place points. Sagan went late and got boxed against the barriers, finishing eight, just behind Greipel.

With just under three kilometers (1.9mi) remaining, a crash near the front took out Greipel, and with it his chance to move up on Sagan. The crash also separated the top fifteen riders from the rest of the peloton, making the sprint safer, and, owing to the rules, allowing most everyone to finish on the same time as the winner.

Everyone knew that the finish came after two right-hand turns in the final kilometer (.625mi). There was a good chance the second rider out of that turn would win the day. And that man was Cavendish, following his lead out man Geert Steegmans. The Manx Missile launched, with Kittel and Sagan behind. Kittel went left, Sagan right. Kittel overtook Cavendish in the final meters, winning in a photo-finish. Sagan didn't have the gas to catch up, took a clear third.

The finish moved Cavendish into second in the Points competition. Greipel, out of commission due to his crash, drops to third. With a gap of 94 points and only two likely field sprints remaining in the race, it has gotten much harder for Sagan to be separated from the Maillot Vert.

After the finish, Sagan was once again pleased with his performance. "It was a long day, but it was good because the breakaway made the ride less stressful. Sure, the final kilometers were a bit stressful and there was the crash, but I was happy not to be caught up in it." For a guy who is racking up second- and third-place finishes like nobody's business, Sagan remains remarkably satisfied with his performance. Having the Maillot Vert helps - sometimes the competition is called "regularity," an awkward translation, but appropriate for Sagan. He's been the most consistent finisher in the race.

Tomorrow represents the last best chance of a pure sprinter taking a stage win until the race arrives in Paris. The 173km (108mio) Thirteenth Stage courses from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond and has little to offer in the way of difficulty. There is a hill that starts 10km from the finish, but it's uncategorized and probably will not offer enough gravitational resistance to drop Greipel and Cavendish. Still, the hill offers possibilities. If Cannondale Pro Cycling drives the pace, they might put those two into difficulty and pave the way to a Peter Sagan stage win. It could also help attackers like world champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC springboard to victory.

Tour de France 2013 Stage 12

Fougeres to Tours 218km


Stage Results

1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano                  in     4:49:49
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step   at     same time 
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling                 same time
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha                                     same time
5. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida                                  same time
29. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                            same time
40. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                          same time
62. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        same time
64. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                      same time
80. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                         same time
171. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        0:04:01             
172. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                             same time


General Classification

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                        47:19:13           
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team            0:03:25             
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team                0:03:37             
4. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff          0:03:54             
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff                      0:03:57           


General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling

87. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        1:04:33           
90.Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                                1:08:02           
108. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       1:19:45           
111. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        1:21:05           
115. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        1:22:07             
116. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          1:23:36           
154.Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                     1:45:45           


Points Competition

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling                 307  pts
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step           211       
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol                                       195       
4. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano                          177       
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha                                      157