CASTRES (France): Tom Boonen of Belgium won Friday’s 12th stage of the Tour de France, his second stage victory this year, while Michael Rasmussen of Denmark retained the overall lead.

Boonen, who already holds the green jersey for the best sprinter, clenched his fists in the air after winning a sprint finish in the 178.5-kilometre trek from Montpellier to Castres.

The final dash was classic sprinting. Heading the pack for the last kilometre, Boonen’s support riders on his Quick Step Innergetic team gradually peeled away one by one, leaving him to burst ahead with 150 metres left and finish in 4 hours, 25 minutes, 32 seconds.

Erik Zabel of Germany was second. Robert Hunter, who became the first South African to win a stage on Thursday, took third.

Rasmussen finished safely in the trailing pack along with his biggest challengers for the yellow jersey. The Dane is 2:35 ahead of second-place Alejandro Valverde and 2:39 in front of Iban Mayo in third.

On Saturday, it’s a 54-kilometer (33.6-mile) individual time-trial in and around the picturesque village of Albi — a discipline that Rasmussen acknowledges isn’t his strength. — AP

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