BOURG-EN-BRESSE, France (AP) — Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali has a firm grip on the yellow jersey as the 12th stage of the Tour de France gets underway.

Nibali holds a lead of 2 minutes, 23 seconds over Australian rider Richie Porte and 2:47 over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde heading into Thursday’s 185.5-kilometer (115.5- mile) trek from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne in southeastern France — a mostly flat route which favors sprinters.

American rider Andrew Talansky did not take the start line Thursday after pulling out in the morning. He rode for several hours with excruciating back pain in Wednesday’s 11th stage, where he finished in last place.