Kittel Takes Third Tour de France Stage
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) has won his third stage of this year’s Tour de France. Kittel took a crash-marred bunch sprint to win Stage 12, a flat, 218-km run from Fougeres to Tours in 4:49:49. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished second, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finished third. Chris Froome (Sky) remains the yellow jersey.
At 3.5 km, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) attacked, and Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) joined him. At eight km, the bunch led the break by 1:45, and the escapees’ advantage grew to 9:00 at 42.5 km. At that point, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Belisol, and Argos-Shimano began to chase.
The gap between the peloton and the fugitives narrowed to 6:19 at 118 km and to 4:32 at 143 km. With 47 km left, 2:55 separated the bunch from the break.
At the intermediate sprint, Sicard was dropped, and the peloton reeled him in. The bunch continued to close on the escape. With 30 km left, the break led the field by one minute, and the gap had narrowed to 0:36 10 km later.
Delaplace sat up, and not long after, Mori followed suit. Flecha attacked Gavazzi, whom the peloton caught with 13 km left. The Spaniard forged a 25-second lead, but Saxo Bank-Tinkoff joined the sprinters’ teams at the front in anticipation of a change in wind direction. The peloton reeled in Flecha with six km left.
GreenEdge took command at the front. Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEdge) crashed on a roundabout with four km left, but nobody else went down. Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Argos-Shimano then went to the front and battled for position.
With three km to go, a crash occurred that took down many members of Lotto-Belisol. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) got around the mishap, but he lost contact with the front of the peloton. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) suffered a fractured right scapula. The Norwegian finished the stage, but he will not start Stage 13.
The crash left the peloton down to fewer than 30 riders. Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Argos-Shimano continued to battle for dominance. Argos-Shimano led what remained of the field into the last km, while Cannondale moved to the front to support Peter Sagan.
Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) led Cavendish into the lead. Kittel took the Manxman’s wheel, came around him with 200 m left, and pipped him with a bike throw.
Kittel was happy about the victory as an affirmation of his and Argos-Shimano’s work. “This win today means a lot to me,” said Kittel. “It’s the third win for the team, which is incredible. The team again did a really good job. They worked hard and kept me out of the wind all day. In the final kilometers it was our train against Omega Pharma-Quick-Step. When the last leadout man pulled off, I jumped to the right wheels and had a very good position when Mark Cavendish started the sprint. I stayed calm and was able to overtake him in the end, but it was very close.
“Today it was great to beat Cavendish in a straightforward sprint. In the final 200m I was able to sit on his wheel. We started the sprint together, and I had the best punch at the end.
“We’ve done a good job so far, and I’m proud to know that I can beat the world’s best. Before the Tour we knew the team worked and we had prepared well, but when everything falls into place like this it is incredible. We’ve been working a long time for this, so these three wins are a big reward.”
In the overall, Froome leads Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) by 3:25 and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) by 3:37. Stage 13 will give the sprinters another opportunity to shine. The flat, 173-km run from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond should see Cavendish, Kittel, Greipel, and Sagan battle for victory. Who will win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
Follow Roadcycling.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to stay up to date with our full Tour de France coverage. Buy road and mountain bikes, framesets, apparel, bike components and more in our RoadCycling.com road bike shop . Help us spread the word about RoadCycling.com by linking to us from your Web site or blog.