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Norway's Alexander Kristoff won the 185.5km 12th stage of the Tour de France after a sprint finish in Saint-Etienne on Thursday.
Peter Sagan took second on a stage for the fourth time this Tour without winning one, while young French sprinter Arnaud Demare was third.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali maintained the leader's yellow jersey after finishing safely in the peloton.
Another undulating stage which started in Bourg-en-Bresse in baking conditions proved something of a lull before the expected fireworks of Friday's first Alpine stage.
A five-man breakaway spent most of the day in front but was gradually whittled down to just Australian Simon Clarke.
He was caught by Frenchmen Cyril Gautier and Perrig Quemeneur with 20km left but they were all reeled in with 5km to go.
Sagan's Cannondale team took over the pace-setting duties in a bid to finally drag their team leader to a stage victory after eight top-10 finishes in the first 11 stages.
Several top sprinters had been shelled out the back of the field on the lumpy terrain leading up to the finish, making Sagan and German John Degenkolb amongst the favourites for sprint victory.
But following his win at Milan-San Remo back in March, Kristoff gained his second major success of the season.
And for Sagan, it was once again back to the drawing board as he looks for a first win this Tour having won four over the previous two editions.