LONDON: Marcel Kittel dominated another sprint finish at the Tour de France as his main rival Mark Cavendish discovered he needed surgery on his separated shoulder.
German Kittel was in a class of his own on the Tour de France’s 155km third stage from sunny Cambridge to drizzly London yesterday, once again winning a sprint finish.
Having also won the opening stage from Leeds to Harrogate, he proved too good for the competition as he held off Slovak Peter Sagan and Australian Mark Renshaw for the victory.
The 26-year-old Giant-Shimano rider said winning a stage in front of Buckingham Palace was almost as special as winning last year’s final stage on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
“It was awesome, I’m really happy I could win this stage in front of Buckingham Palace. There were amazing crowds, great scenery, the team did a really good job which was a great advertisement for our lead-out train,” said Kittel.
“It came pretty close to the Champs Elysees, I’m pretty sad that we’ll finish only once here because it’s a great atmosphere by the side of the road. It was one of the greatest finishes I’ve ever seen because of this great scenery.”
But the ease with which he won his sixth Tour stage in total highlighted all the more the absence of Cavendish, who crashed in the sprint finish in Harrogate before abandoning the race before Sunday’s second stage.
His Omega Pharma-Quick Step team said he will go under the knife to repair the ligaments in his shoulder joint on Wednesday and would be out of action for six weeks.
“It’s worse than I was hoping but immediately after the crash I knew something was really wrong,” Cavendish said.
“It is really painful, but at the moment all I can do is focus 100 percent of my effort on my recovery to be able to get back racing for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step as quickly as possible.”
Kittel’s rivals have been forced to battle out the minor placings so far but Frenchman Bryan Coquard, who finished fourth in both sprint finishes, believes there is a way to beat the big German.
“I think he’s beatable. Last year he was beaten (at the Tour). OK, not yet this year but maybe that will come,” said the 22-year-old Europcar sprinter.
“Last year I beat him at the Tour de Picardie so why not at the Tour de France!”
The Tour will leave Britain after a highly successful three days and return to its true home.
Vincenzo Nibali, who took the race leader’s yellow jersey by winning Sunday’s second stage, praised the British fans for their enthusiasm.
“What can I say, I’m really, really happy because today there were even more people than the other days,” he said after yeserday’s stage.
“Here in England we’ve been met by a great welcome and fantastic fans.”
The fourth stage takes the peloton from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille but it is Wednesday’s fifth stage from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut that has got everyone talking.
It includes 15.4km of the cobblestones used on the famous Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic.
“We’ll have the chance to think about it when we get there,” said Nibali.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be another nervous stage. Let’s get past tomorrow, another day without any great problems, and then when we get to the cobbles stage we’ve got the material we need.
“Certainly we’ll try to ride it well and stay close together (as a team). We know what problems can happen, it can be dangerous and it’s best not to crash.”
Reigning champion Chris Froome said he was happy to have avoided any pitfalls.
“The big thing was to get through the stage, don’t lose time or have any issues or incidents,” he told ITV4.
“I’m feeling good. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we can expect a similar day but on day five we hit the cobbles and that will be quite a shake up, literally.”AFP