Tours, France (Sports Network) - Britain's Christopher Froome retained the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the Tour de France, while Germany's Marcel Kittel won a stage in cycling's most prestigious event for the third time.
Froome expanded his overall lead to 3 minutes and 25 seconds with a strong performance in Wednesday's individual time trial and maintained the advantage Thursday by finishing in the main pack with his closest contenders.
"It was a big effort yesterday and naturally I felt it in the legs a little bit today, but hopefully no more than the other guys in the peloton," said Froome. "I'm looking forward to the Alps and getting closer to Paris."
Spain's Alejandro Valverde finished 18th on Thursday, four places behind Froome for the day, and remained second overall. Dutchman Bauke Mollema is third overall, another 12 seconds behind, with two-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain 3:54 back in fourth.
Kittel, meanwhile, outsprinted Britain's Mark Cavendish to the wire for the Stage 12 win. He crossed in a time of 4 hours, 49 minutes and 49 seconds -- the same time given to the top 120 riders in the 218-kilometer jaunt from Fougeres to Tours.
"It's quite unbelievable," said Kittel about his three stage wins in this year's Tour. "It feels like a dream and it's something very, very special for me and the whole team."
Kittel also won the opening stage of the 100th Tour and Stage 10 on Tuesday.
Friday's Stage 13 is 173 kilometers from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond, another relatively flat ride that should feature another sprint to the finish.