Kittel beats Cavendish in stage sprint finish at Tour de France

(CNN) -- Mark Cavendish's eventful week at the Tour de France continued Thursday when he was beaten to the line by Marcel Kittel in a sprint finish.

Holding more than a bike's length lead nearing the end of the 135-mile 12th stage from Fougeres to Tours in northwest France, Cavendish was caught and finished half a wheel behind the German.

Kittel claimed his third stage victory this year.

"They say good things happen in threes and that has happened for me today," said Kittel.

On Tuesday Cavendish drew criticism from Tom Veelers after the riders collided as part of a sprint finish, leaving the Dutchman -- Kittel's Argos-Shimano teammate -- on the ground.

"I would like to dedicate this win to my team, especially Tom Veelers who had to fight today just to finish," added Kittel.

Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing by race officials, Cavendish was sprayed with urine by a spectator and jeered as he rode Wednesday.

And according to the Daily Mail, organizers of a race in the Netherlands after the Tour de France have told Cavendish not to bother showing up following the incident with Veelers.

Expected to have a major say in the overall points classification at the Tour de France, Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Cavendish has only won one stage and trails Cannondale's Peter Sagan by 96 points with sprint friendly stages running out.

Kittel rose to fourth after Thursday's victory.

"Like I said, @marcelkittel's the new big thing," tweeted Cavendish. "Simply better than me today. Congrats! Sorry I couldn't finish @opqscyclingteam's hard work."

Cavendish won the green jersey in 2011 but Sagan, third on Thursday, was the 2012 winner.

Team Sky's Chris Froome retained his lead of three minutes, 25 seconds over Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, with two-time race Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff staying under four minutes behind.

Froome, though, narrowly missed being involved in a nasty crash as the stage came to a close.

He was about two bike lengths ahead of the carnage that left teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen nursing shoulder and arm injuries.

"I could hear the crash behind me, but I didn't see anything," said Froome. "It seems like there's no such thing as an easy day on the Tour de France.

"It was a hard day. Every time I cross the finish line there's a little sigh of relief."