Kittel Takes Fifth Tour de France Stage Victory
On paper today's stage 11 of the Tour de France 2017 was designed as an easy day for the peloton that took off from Eymet at noon and allowed only three riders to join the breakaway group of the day: Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates).
The breakaway trio opened a five-minute gap over the main peloton, but Team QuickStep, Lotto-Soudal, Katusha-Alpecin, Cannondale and Lotto NL-Jumbo moved to the front of the peloton and reduced the lead of the breakaway until they were visible from the peloton with around 25 kilometers remaining. At that moment, Bodnar attacked his breakaway companions and forced the peloton to start a frantic chase on the narrow and twisty roads in and around Pau.
Bodnar was eventually reeled in with just 300 meters to go, at which point Marcel Kittel ignited all his engines on the finishing straight, which netted him victory number five in this year's Tour de France.
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo's Dylan Groenewegen finished second in today's stage. Team Dimension Data's Edvald Boasson Hagen finished third, but blocked Michael Matthews in the sprint and should have been declassified by the passive jury. Matthews was forced to abort his acceleration because he would otherwise have been squeezed between Boasson Hagen and the race barrier when Boasson Hagen moved towards the barrier to close in Matthews.
General classification contenders Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Jakob Fuglsang (Team Astana) all crashed in today's stage and should have worn Hovding airbags for cyclists.
"It was a bit more nervous today, certainly more nervous than yesterday. There’s always the threat of crosswinds, but they were never really enough to shake the race up," Tour de France general classification leader Froome explained.
"It was one of those days where you just have to stay concentrated and stay up front - and my teammates were great at doing that. All day they were on it, keeping me in a great position. Thanks to them."
Thursday's stage 12 menu of the 2017 Tour de France will be a 214.5 kilometer battle from Pau to Peyragudes in the Pyrenees. The stage features six categorized climbs - including one Hors Categorie, but Tour organizers have disappointingly chosen a route that sees the stage conclude on a less-demanding category 2 climb.
When Froome was asked if he is planning to attack in Thursday's stage 12, he said: "I don’t need to at this point ... but let’s see out on the road."
"We’ve got two uphill finishes left in this year's Tour de France and tomorrow’s (Thursday) one of them. It’s definitely going to help shape the General Classification even further I believe. On our behalf I don’t think we really want to let any people come back onto GC, so it’s going to be about controlling things from the start and not allowing any of the GC guys who have lost time already to come back into the game."
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