Kittel Scores Hat Trick at Tour de France
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) has scored a hat trick at the 2014 Tour de France. The Giant-Shimano man picked up his third stage win by pipping Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr), taking Stage 4, a rolling, 163.5-km run from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille in 3:36:39. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains the maillot jaune.
Stage 4 was the first stage of this year’s Tour de France to take place in France. Luis Mate (Cofidis) jumped clear early, and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) joined him. The pair led the field by three minutes at 20 km.
Behind the break, a crash occurred in the peloton at four km. It involved defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) and GC hopeful Bauke Mollema (Belkin), among others. Froome suffered scratches, bruises, and a sore left wrist, but he was on his bike quickly, and he rejoined the peloton after receiving medical attention. Like Froome, Mollema was not seriously injured.
Lotto-Belisol, Giant-Shimano, and Astana pursued Mate and Voeckler. With 71 km remaining, Cannondale pulled Peter Sagan to third place at the intermediate sprint. The Italian squad’s effort split the peloton for a time, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Demare in the second group.
With 61 km left, the break’s lead was down to 0:30. Five km later, Mate punctured and Voeckler left him to his fate. With 45 km to go, the Europcar man led the peloton by 1:20.
Fifteen km later, a crash at a roundabout took down Lotto-Belisol riders Greg Henderson, Lars Bak, and Bart de Clerq. The mishap forced Henderson to abandon and decimated the Belgian squad’s sprint train.
Sagan crashed in the last 20 km and had to chase hard to get back on. Voeckler was caught with about 15 km left, and Tinkoff-Saxo Bank and Garmin-Sharp went to the front to keep Alberto Contador and Andrew Talansky, respectively, out of trouble.
With three km left, Omega Pharma-Quick Step took over at the front to set up Mark Renshaw. With 1.5 km to go, Giant-Shimano joined the Belgian team at the front. Kittel had Renshaw’s wheel. Kristoff jumped first and led with 200 m remaining, but Kittel came off of Renshaw’s wheel and nipped the Norwegian just before the finish line.
Kittel’s victory was the result of the team’s homework before the stage. “All I could think about was the last corner,” the German said. “We had studied the stage before with the coaches and knew that after the bend it was 250 m to go. I nearly went then but held back and then went after the corner to get over to Kristoff.
“I had to go from a long way out but I managed to get past before the line.”
In the overall, Nibali leads Sagan and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) by 0:02. A bunch sprint will not decide Stage 5, and the stage could end with a new maillot jaune. The 155.5-km ride from Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut will feature 15.4 km of cobblestones. These will break up the field. Stage 5 will be a classics man’s stage. Who will win? Fabian Cancellara (Trek)? Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team)? Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!