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A perfect lead-out by Giant-Shimano puts Kittel in the perfect position for the big sprint on The Mall and no one can come around the big German who takes his second win; Nibali defends yellow

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MARCEL KITTEL

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MARK RENSHAW

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PETER SAGAN

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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07.07.2014 @ 17:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) proved that he is in a class of his own when it comes to sprinting in the Tour de France when he won today’s highly anticipated bunch sprint on The Mall in London. His Giant-Shimano did everything right to deliver their sprinter in a perfect position and no one even tried to come around the German who took his second win of the race by holding off Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

 

The Mall in London was expected to be the scene of one of the biggest sprint battle of the year when the Tour de France visited the English capital on the third day of the race. The stage lived up to expectations as it ended with a royal and very fast sprint that brought the British adventure to a close in grandiose fashion.

 

As expected, Marcel Kittel proved to be in a class of his own when he took a hugely convincing victory after having been supported perfectly by his team. Giant-Shimano completely dominated the finale and as they hit the finishing straight, Koen De Kort and Tom Veelers were on the front with Kittel on their wheel.

 

The pair delivered Kittel perfectly and when he launched his sprint, the outcome was never in doubt. No one even tried to come around the big German who took what seemed by almost an easy victory. Peter Sagan had smartly positioned himself on Kittel’s wheel and stayed there all the way to the line to make sure that he scored a lot of points for his green jersey defence by taking second while Mark Renshaw completed the podium.

 

The sprint was held on wet roads in London which made it a very nervous affair that forced both the GC riders and the sprinters to stay attentive in order to avoid the dangers. Giant-Shimano hit the front with around 5km to go but at one point their win seemed to be in danger as Kittel and lead-out man Veelers had lost contact with their teammates.

 

However, Veelers proved his class by bringing his sprinter back in position in time for the sprint while further a back a crash inside the final 3km split the peloton. Going into the penultimate turn, Jurgen Roelandts tried to move up with the Lotto Belisol train and managed to pass the Giant riders but as he had none of his teammates with him, he had to slow down, making room for De Kort, Veelers and Kittel to start their show.

 

For André Greipel, the stage ended as a huge disappoint as the Lotto train completely disintegrated in the finale and the German champion rolled across the line outside the top 10 after having not even got the chance to sprint.

 

Astana played a prominent role in the finale to keep race leader Vincenzo Nibali protected and they accomplished their mission. The Italian champion finished safely within and stays in the yellow jersey for another day.

 

He takes his 2-second lead over Sagan and most of the GC riders into tomorrow’s fourth stage which is the first on French soil. The mostly flat route briefly touches Belgium and includes an exciting intermediate sprint on the Casselberg but is expected to offer the sprinters another chance to go for glory.

 

A completely flat stage

The British part of the Tour de France came to an end with a short 155km stage from Cambridge to London. The roads were almost completely flat and contained no categorized climbs and with a finish on The Mall in the English capital, all was set for a big bunch sprint.

 

All 196 riders that finished yesterday’s stage took the start under beautiful weather conditions but most of them had no real desire to do any racing. As everyone expected a bunch sprint the very first attack was the right one, with no one really expecting the break to make it.

 

A duo take off

Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne) took off right from the gun and was joined by Jan Barta (NetApp-Endura). The peloton showed no interest in reaction and the pair was allowed to build up a 3.30 advantage before Dmitriy Gruzdev started to chase for Astana.

 

Tanel Kangert took a short turn on the front but for most of the early part of the stage, the Astana trio of Gruzdev, Maxim Iglinskiy and Alessandro Vanotti made sure to keep the break under control. When the gap had reached 5 minutes after 17km of racing, Lotto Belisol asked Lars Bak to contribute to the chase and 5km further up the road, Cheng Ji (Giant-Shimano) also joined the action.

 

Bakelants goes down

The peloton enjoyed a pretty easy start while those five riders kept the gap stable between 4.00 and 4.30. A small crash brought down Jan Bakelants (OPQS) but otherwise the first part of the race was pretty uneventful.

 

With 100km to go, Bak was replaced by Bart De Clercq and this had an effect on the advantage which started to come down. As the riders reached the feed zone with 75km to go, the gap was already down to just 2.25 and the peloton seemed to have everything under control.

 

FDJ join the chase

Exiting the feed zone, FDJ asked Matthieu Ladagnous to join the chase but he only took a few turns before he was replaced by Jeremy Roy. Astana had now stopped their work and soon after Ji also disappeared, meaning that Roy and De Clercq had the job of keeping the gap stable at around 2.00 and 2.30.

 

Bideau beat Barta in the intermediate sprint, with the Czech not showing too much interest in the points, while behind Cannondale took control to lead Sagan out. Europcar tried to pass the American team and their sprinter Bryan Coquard managed to beat the Slovakian while Sagan’s teammate Elia Viviani took important points by finishing fifth ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

 

The peloton slows down

The action had brought the gap down to 1.10 and De Clercq, Ji and Roy went back to work to keep the gap stable. The fight for position had now started and the tension was clearly growing.

 

The peloton stopped its chase in an attempt not to catch the break too early but with 32km to go, the gap had suddenly grown to 2.10. With 24km to go, the gap was still 2 minutes and now Lotto realized that something had to be done and so Bak went back to work.

 

Kristoff fights back

Giant-Shimano joined the work with Dries Devenyns and the gap was now coming down. Meanwhile, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had to fight his way back after having destroyed his wheel in a small ctash.

 

With 18km to go, Astana hit the front to keep Nibali safe and Gruzdev, Vanotti and Iglinskiy did a lot of work to lead the peloton. Bak joined them and with 12km to go, they had the gap down to less than 45 seconds.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo take control

Tinkoff-Saxo now took control with Michael Mørkøv and Daniele Bennati who wanted to keep Alberto Contador safe. Bak again took over while up ahead, Barta left Bideau behind.

 

Nicolas Roche and Matteo Tosatto again hit the front for Tinkoff-Saxo and with 6km to go, Barta was finally brought back. The sprint trains were all looming behind the Tinkoff riders and with 4km to go, OPQS hit the front.

 

Giant-Shimano hit the front

Tony Martin set the pace but the Belgian team lost the battle with a little less than 4km to go. Giant-Shimano took over and from there, the Dutch team ruled. Alberto Timmer, Tom Dumoulin and Roy Curvers did the early work before John Degenkolb led the peloton under the flamme rouge.

 

A crash caused some confusion but apparently none of the sprinters were impacted. Roelandts passed the Giant riders with 600m to go but as he had lost his teammates, he slowed down and from there De Kort and Veelers gave Kittel the perfect lead-out.

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