Saturday 14 December 2019

Kittel admits 'relief' after sweeping to second victory

Giant-Shimano team rider Marcel Kittel of Germany celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 155 km third stage of the Tour de France cycling race from Cambridge to London. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Giant-Shimano team rider Marcel Kittel of Germany celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 155 km third stage of the Tour de France cycling race from Cambridge to London. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Alasdair Fotheringham

IT could hardly have been a more appropriate setting: just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace, Germany's Marcel Kittel was crowned King of the Tour sprints yesterday as he captured a near-faultless bunch sprint win for the second time in three days.

Kittel's superiority was such that by the time he crossed the line the 26-year-old Giant-Shimano rider was more than two bike lengths ahead of his nearest opponent Peter Sagan.

This was partly due to a superb lead-out from his team-mates, as first John Degenkolb and then Tom Veelers guided the German into pole position for the final dash along The Mall. But ultimately it was up to Kittel to deliver – and deliver he most certainly did.

Already leading the pack on the flat, broad boulevard, he needed barely a dozen pedal strokes before he crossed the line with his arms aloft.

TRIUMPH

Behind him, with Kittel safely en route to success, his team-mates raised their arms in triumph, too, as they freewheeled towards the line and some celebratory hugs.

Sky rider and Tour favourite Chris Froome avoided any calamities and came home in the pack to continue his solid start to the race.

For Kittel it's all about the wins. "It's a big relief to have got two victories so quickly," he said. "Winning here feels as good as winning on the Champs-Elysees last year.

"People shouldn't think this gets any easier, sometimes we make mistakes. It was a stage, though, made for a sprint, much more so than Saturday (where Kittel had won and taken the yellow jersey to boot) where it was much less flat and the racing was harder."

Kittel gave a wry smile when asked if he could ensure he would not imitate his performance in May's Giro d'Italia, where he took two stages out of the first three – but then abandoned the race 24 hours later with a fever. "I will take care this time," he said.

In fact, the only question mark over Kittel's win was the absence of Mark Cavendish, who will undergo shoulder surgery that will rule him out of the Commonwealth Games after his crash on Saturday.

"It's worse than I was hoping," Cavendish said yesterday. (© Independent News Service)

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