Germany's Marcel Kittel overtook Mark Cavendish at the line Thursday to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France, and Chris Froome stayed safely in the main pack to preserve his big lead.
Cavendish moved in front but Kittel gained ground and just beat him to the line to earn his second stage win in three days and third of this race.
"As we say in Germany, good things come in three," the 25-year-old Kittel said. "It was close. I don't know what to say. It was a real sprint today, that's why I'm so happy."
Froome still leads Alejandro Valverde by 3 minutes, 25 seconds and is 3:54 ahead of two-time former champion Alberto Contador.
They rolled through vineyards and alongside the Chinon forest on a 136-mile route from Figures to Tours in the Loire valley, a picturesque region dotted with imposing French chateaus -- the spiral-towered Chateau d'Usse, which dates from the 11th century, and the 16th century Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau, which rests on the water.
About 20 riders were caugh...