TOURS, France — Germany's Marcel Kittel overtook Mark Cavendish at the line Thursday to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France, and Chris Froome avoided a late crash 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," Kittel said. "It was close."
German riders have won five stages so far, with Tony Martin capturing Wednesday's time trial and Andre Greipel also winning a sprint stage.
Froome leads Alejandro Valverde by 3 minutes, 25 seconds and is 3:54 ahead of two-time former champion Alberto Contador. Froome is on track to become the second British rider to win the race — Bradley Wiggins won it last year, with Froome runner-up.