Tour de France 2014: Marcel Kittel makes most of Mark Cavendish absence by claiming sprint crown on The Mall in London

UK spell of the race comes to an end

With the Tour de France

It could hardly have been a more appropriate setting: just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, Germany’s Marcel Kittel was crowned King of the Tour sprints today as he captured a near-faultless bunch sprint win for the second time in three days.

Kittel’s superiority was such that by the time he crossed the line, the 26-year-old Giant-Shimano rider was more than two bike lengths ahead of his nearest opponent Peter Sagan – in sprinting, the equivalent of country miles. This was partly due to a superb lead-out from his team-mates, as first John Degenkolb  and then Tom Veelers guided the German into pole position for the final dash along The Mall. But ultimately it was up to Kittel to deliver – and deliver he most certainly did.

Already leading the pack on the flat, broad boulevard, he needed barely a dozen pedal strokes before he crossed the line with his arms aloft. Behind him, with Kittel safely en route to success, his team-mates raised their arms in triumph, too, as they freewheeled towards the line and a round of celebratory hugs.

Sky rider and Tour favourite Chris Froome avoided any calamities and came home in the pack to continue his solid start to the race. “It was a tough stage and tricky coming into London,” Froome said. “There was a lot of road furniture but again there were just massive, massive crowds out there. We did get a little bit wet in the final part but I suppose it wouldn’t have been a British start without a bit of rain! It was a good day for us and we’re three days into the Tour now. It’s a good feeling.”

Read more: Britain retains yellow jersey for sport-watching
Thomas: Selfies are the new pain in the arse

For Kittel it’s all about the wins. “It’s a big relief to have got two victories so quickly,” he said. “Winning here feels as good as winning on the Champs Elysées last year. People shouldn’t think this gets any easier, sometimes we make mistakes. It was a stage, though, made for a sprint, much more so than Saturday” – where Kittel had won and taken the yellow jersey to boot – “where it was much less flat and the racing was harder.”

Kittel gave a wry smile when asked if he could ensure he would not imitate his performance in May’s Giro d’Italia, where he took two stages out of the first three – but then abandoned 24 hours later with a fever. “I will take care this time,” he said.

In fact, the only question mark over Kittel’s win was the absence of Mark Cavendish, who will undergo shoulder surgery that will rule him out of the Commonwealth Games after his crash on Saturday. “It’s worse than I was hoping,” he said yesterday. Given yesterday’s stage location, the lack of the British sprinter was even more noticeable.

However, Cavendish could not beat the German in last year’s Tour on three attempts, and going on the margin by which Kittel has had the measure of the opposition so far, it seems unfair to doubt the German’s superiority.

Cycling fans await the riders on The Mall Cycling fans await the riders on The Mall

“Without Cavendish, there is still plenty of competition,” Kittel said. “Don’t forget [French champion] Arnaud Démare and [German sprinter] Andre Greipel.” They were not the most dangerous challengers on Monday though: they finished 14th and 23rd.

Only further sprints will resolve this debate, but the one clear difference, as Kittel pointed out, is that “without Mark there aren’t as many teams controlling the race, and that is something we have to take into account.”

That said, Giant-Shimano kept the stage’s breakaways on a tight leash in a manner which Cavendish would have commended. As the race wended its way through the wind-rippled cornfields of Essex, two early attackers, Czech Jan Barta and France’s Jean-Marc Bideau, were given enough margin – four minutes – by Kittel’s squad to deter other potential challengers, but not so much that they would not be reeled in before the finish.

By the time the Tour crossed the border into Greater London, the two riders’ advantage had been halved, and as they began the long haul towards Buckingham Palace along the Thames’ north bank, it was clear they were doomed to be caught.

As the odd rain-shower pelted down and a nervous-looking Alberto Contador came close to the front and barked order after order at his team-mate, Barta briefly shed Bideau, but he could not hold off the peloton for much longer. Then, after one late crash caused two outside overall favourites, the brothers Andy and Frank Schleck, to lose just over a minute, Giant upped the pace still further for Kittel.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism