Marcel Kittel sprints to victory in London on stage three of the Tour de France
Marcel Kittel's Tour de France sprint supremacy continued on Monday as the German won stage three of the Tour de France on The Mall in London.
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 (Giant-Shimano) won four stages to Cavendish's two in the 2013 Tour and already has two wins from three stages a year on after triumphing on Saturday's opening day and again in front of Buckingham Palace, where he once again proved he is the new sprint king.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was second, with Cavendish's Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate Mark Renshaw third.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who assumed the yellow jersey by winning in Sheffield on day two, finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall lead.
Ireland's Nicolas Roche is in 25th position 16 seconds off Nibali.
After glorious weather in Yorkshire, the first rainfall of the race arrived after the riders had passed by the Olympic Park in East London.
The day's breakaway pair - NetApp-Endura's Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne-Seche Environnemen) - were swept up in the final 6km and Kittel's Giant-Shimano squad led through Parliament Square and along Birdcage Walk.
Lotto-Belisol took to the front outside Buckingham Palace, but then Kittel's squad took over once more and no one could match the German's power.
The events unfolded without serial winner Cavendish, who, for the first time since voluntarily exiting the 2008 Tour to prepare for the Beijing Olympics, will not reach Paris, where the race concludes on July 27.
Peta Cavendish, the Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter's wife, took to Twitter to state the Manxman had a hospital appointment, with a MRI scan required to determine if he would require surgery.
On Monday evening the riders will be on French soil after flying on four chartered aeroplanes from London City Airport, with defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) relieved to have negotiated a tricky opening in fifth place after finishing 28th in London.
Whether the Tour's vast fleet of support vehicles make it across The Channel depends, at least in part, on a fully-functioning Eurotunnel.
The stage marked the conclusion of a Grand Depart labelled the best yet and witnessed by millions - Tour director Christian Prudhomme estimated five million people had lined the Yorkshire stages from Leeds to Harrogate and from York to Sheffield.
On a regular working day the roads of Cambridgeshire, Essex, by the Olympic Park in East London and in Westminster, were lined with cycling enthusiasts and the extraordinary crowds are surely only likely to hasten the return of the race across La Manche.
The peloton paraded through Cambridge's tight streets around the university's world-renowned colleges, before heading east into Essex, with Barta and Bideau escaping from the official start.
The duo established a lead of four minutes, with the sprinters' teams, and Nibali's Astana team, content to bide their time ahead of the Tour's second visit to London in seven years, after the 2007 Grand Depart.
Barta continued alone for 2km along The Thames, but his forlorn escape was brought to an end, before the sprinters' teams fought for position, with Kittel prevailing.
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