Saint-Etienne, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Alexander Kristoff of Norway won Stage 12 of the Tour de France on Thursday and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali remains the overall leader of cycling's most prestigious event with two days in the Alps on the immediate horizon.
Kristoff completed the 185.5 kilometers from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne in a time of 4 hours, 32 minutes and 11 seconds, beating Slovakia's Peter Sagan in a sprint to the finish line for his first Tour de France stage victory.
Nibali was given the same time as the stage winner and was placed 24th on Thursday. He still owns the coveted yellow jersey as the overall leader with an advantage of 2 minutes and 23 seconds over Australia's Richie Porte, who was 20th on Thursday.
A total of 60 riders were awarded the same time as Kristoff, including Spain's Alejandro Valverde. He was placed 33rd on Thursday and still sits third overall, 2:47 behind Nibali.
"It was the typical flat French stage, very difficult with a lot of curves and downhills, and a bunch sprint at the end. Tomorrow, it'll be another story," said Nibali with a nod toward the Alps. "I'm sure our rivals will try to attack, but on the other hand, if I can gain some seconds, I'll go for it."
The peloton was never too far behind a few breakout riders on Thursday and the leaders were caught entering the final kilometers, leading to a group finish.
Andre Greipel of Germany, the Stage 6 winner, crashed with Sylvain Chavanel of France with just over three kilometers remaining.
Kristoff soon after took off with Sagan close behind, but the Slovakian was unable to catch the Norwegian and finished as the runner-up for the fourth time without a stage win in this year's Tour. In addition to Thursday, Sagan also finished second in the opener as well as Stage 3 and Stage 7. He still owns the green jersey as the sprinter points leader.
Stage 11 winner Tony Gallopin of France fell behind the peloton in the last 10 kilometers and finished nearly six minutes behind for the day. He also dropped from fifth overall to 20th, 8:57 behind Nibali.
American Andrew Talansky called it quits before the start of Stage 12, as injuries from a pair of crashes last week finally took their toll. He nearly abandoned the race on Wednesday, but managed to keep going before finishing last for the stage.
Friday's first day in the Alps for Stage 13 will feature a 197.5-kilometer ride from Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse. It includes a trio of climbs, including a Category 1 ascent and a finish at the highest category.