Polish rider Maciej Bodnar nearly pulled off an incredible wire-to-wire effort for his first Tour de France stage win. But after 125 miles in the lead, the 32-year-old was caught by the peloton in Stage 11 on Wednesday.
Marcel Kittel won his fifth stage of the Tour in a bunched sprint, after two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and podium contender Jakob Fuglsang both crashed.
Both Fuglsang and Contador regrouped to finish with the peloton, leaving no major shakeups in the overall standings. Chris Froome still leads by 18 seconds over Italian Fabio Aru as the Tour heads into the Pyrenees on Thursday.
Kittel edged Dylan Groenewegen and Edvald Boasson Hagen to become the first cyclist to win five stages in one Tour since Mark Cavendish in 2011. The record in one Tour is eight stages.
There are three more flat stages next week for Kittel to possibly seize in the absence of rivals Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare, all knocked out of the Tour.
Bodnar was part of a breakaway group at the start of the 126-mile stage and was the last man caught, with fewer than 250 meters before the finish. Bodnar, who has never finished in the top 100 overall in 10 Grand Tour starts, was at the lead of the stage for about four and a half hours.
Fuglsang, in fifth place overall at the start of the day, suffered a broken wrist in a crash while one of his Team Astana mates, Dario Cataldo, had to abandon the race.
Later, Contador hit the pavement with about 13 miles left in the flat 126-mile stage. Contador’s hopes of a first Tour podium finish since 2009 were already dim. He entered the day in 12th place and 5 minutes, 15 seconds behind Froome.
Stage 12 on Thursday could be decisive. Riders face five categorized climbs in the Pyrenees over 133 miles. NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 4:50 a.m. ET, with NBCSN coverage at 7.
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