Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Marcel Kittel setting the pace in the Tour de France

London calling: Tour de France third stage race leaders pass the Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace on their way to a sprint finish on The Mall. German Marcel Kittel, who also won on Saturday, crossed the finish line first to claim the final English leg of the race
London calling: Tour de France third stage race leaders pass the Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace on their way to a sprint finish on The Mall. German Marcel Kittel, who also won on Saturday, crossed the finish line first to claim the final English leg of the race
Home first: Stage winner Marcel Kittel leads the peloton through Parliament Square at the end of the race's third stage
On the mend: Mark Cavendish will undergo surgery tomorrow following his bad fall in Yorkshire

Marcel Kittel compared winning on The Mall to triumphing on the Champs-Elysees as the German's Tour de France sprint supremacy continued in London.

Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won a second stage in three attempts on UK soil as the Tour's excursion across The Channel concluded following a hugely successful Grand Depart in Yorkshire.

The powerful German was brilliantly delivered by his team in front of Buckingham Palace to claim a sixth stage win in two editions of the Tour.

"Emotionally, this win is close to the one I got on the Champs-Elysees in Paris last year," Kittel said.

"Winning on The Mall, that's what I dreamed of but, even though I had a good chance to make it come true, it's not something I could take for granted.

"It's really fantastic to win here. On the finishing line, the crowd was fantastic. I love the atmosphere."

The 155-kilometre route from Cambridge was the third and final stage on UK soil ahead of the race's return to France and was always destined to end in a sprint finish.

The peloton raced near Mark Cavendish's Essex home, but the partisan crowd were deprived of the 25-times stage winner's presence by his withdrawal with a shoulder injury sustained on stage one in Harrogate.

Kittel won four stages to Cavendish's two in the 2013 Tour and, in a Regal setting, once again proved he is the current sprint king, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) second and Cavendish's Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate Mark Renshaw third.

Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who won in Sheffield on day two, finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall leader's yellow jersey, with defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) fifth overall.

After glorious weather in Yorkshire, the first rainfall of the race arrived after the riders passed by the Olympic Park in east London.

The day's breakaway pair – NetApp-Endura's Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) – were swept up in the final 6km and Kittel's Giant-Shimano squad led through Parliament Square and along Birdcage Walk.

Andre Greipel's Lotto-Belisol squad took to the front outside Buckingham Palace, but then Kittel's team-mates took over once more and no one could match the German's power.

"This was one of the fastest sprints I've ever done," Kittel added.

"My job was 500 metres long but the biggest fight was already over. My boys had done a great job before that."

Cavendish will not be able to challenge his rival after crashing out in pursuit of a first yellow jersey of his career in his mother's home town.

It means that, for the first time since voluntarily exiting the 2008 Tour to prepare for the Beijing Olympics, Cavendish will not reach Paris, where the race concludes on July 27.

He will undergo shoulder surgery tomorrow and faces around six weeks out following his Tour de France-ending crash on stage one in Harrogate last Saturday.

The 29-year-old from the Isle of Man ruptured all of the ligaments surrounding his acromioclavicular joint and also suffered a separated shoulder, his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team has confirmed.

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