Kittel Takes Stage 1 of Tour de France
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) has taken Stage 1 of the Tour de France. Kittel took a crash-marred bunch sprint to win the flattish, 190.5-km ride from Leeds to Harrogate, England in 4:44:07. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finished second, and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp-POC) finished third.
Sunny skies greeted the riders at the Grand Depart. The riders rode through a 17.5-km neutralized section before stopping at Harewood House, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry greeted the riders and chatted with some of them. The ribbon was then cut and the riders proceeded for some distance more through a neutral zone before hostilities began.
Jens Voigt (Trek) began the hostilities. The German, who is riding his last Tour de France, jumped clear, and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) joined him. The peloton kept the trio on a short leash, and they never led the field by more than three minutes. At the intermediate sprint at 77 km, Voigt dropped his companions and set out on his own. The Trek man led the peloton by five minutes at the feed zone.
On the Category 3 Cote de Buttertubs, the peloton split, and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was in the rear group. The peloton, which was in hot pursuit, caught Voigt on the descent of the day’s final categorized climb, the third category Cote de Grinton Moor.
The lead group slowed, which allowed the Rodriguez group to get back on. With 30 km left, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Belisol, Tinkoff-Saxo Bank, and Sky paced the bunch. Eventually, Omega Pharma-Quick Step took command and led the field into the final km. With a little more than one km left, Fabian Cancellara (Trek) attacked on the slightly uphill finish. Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma-Quick Step chased and caught the Swiss rider.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) made contact and hit the deck. The crash split the field. Ahead, Kittel pulled ahead of Sagan to take the win.
Cavendish took responsibility for the mishap. "It was my fault,” the Manx missile said. “I'll personally apologize to Simon Gerrans as soon as I get the chance. In reality, I tried to find a gap that wasn't really there. I wanted to win today, I felt really strong and was in a great position to contest the sprint thanks to the unbelievable efforts of my team. Sorry to all the fans that came out to support--it was truly incredible.” The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider suffered a dislocated right shoulder. A decision on whether he will start Stage 2 will be made Sunday morning.
For his part, Kittel was ecstatic. “It was a really special day today – the supporters lining the roads were incredible,” he said. “I am so proud and this means so much to me that we made it happen. The [yellow] jersey is for the team after the job they did today and all the fans out there supporting us also deserve a slice.
“We worked so hard for it – everyone pulled just as they should and even with a slight reshuffle in the sprint formation at the end we got it perfect.
“John [Degenkolb] and Koen [De Kort] pulled through the last few hundred metres of the leadout and then I had to go for it as Sagan launched.
“We got it right again today and it was a real team effort. It’s a special day.”
In the overall, Kittel leads Sagan and Navardauskas. A bunch sprint will not decide Stage 2, and the yellow jersey could change backs. The hilly, 201-km ride from York to Sheffield will feature nine categorized climbs, all but one of which will be Category 3 or 4. The field is likely to break up, and a classics man is likely to win the day. Who will it be? Cancellara? Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!