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
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
“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.
Latest in Sport
Commonwealth Games 2014 Opening Ceremony: Ewan McGregor launches Unicef charity fundraiser, making £2.5m in one night
Arsenal transfer news: Atletico Madrid closing in on Santi Cazorla deal - reports
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger set to cancel moves for Sami Khedira and Morgan Schneiderlin in favour of Jack Wilshere - reports
Manchester United transfer news: Arturo Vidal subject of £39m bid
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers (and giant cans of Irn Bru) welcome in Glasgow's Games
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...
£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...
£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...