Marcel Kittel was left fuming after crossing the finish line in second place on stage 2 of the Tour de Pologne on Monday. The German was angry with the way that stage winner Matteo Pelucchi opened up his sprint and while the Italian raised his arms in celebration, behind him Kittel raised his in remonstration.
There was a pile-up inside 200 metres caused by a touch of wheels between Caleb Ewan and Sacha Modolo but when Pelucchi and Kittel came through unscathed, the German felt that his rival deviated from his line, coming across from left to right and even touching his handlebars.
“I don’t want to be a bad loser, but in my opinion – and maybe he will never agree with me – it was unnecessary that he came so far to the right, because you normally have to hold your line and I think it was unnecessary what he did there. It was not a good way to sprint for the finish. I will definitely watch the video replay tonight,” Kittel told reporters after a trip to the podium to once again pull on the leader’s yellow jersey.
Kittel exchanged words with Pelucchi once both men had come to a standstill. While Pelucchi insisted there wasn’t a problem, Kittel did not try to play down any conflict but had adopted a more philosophical take on events by the time he reached the mixed zone.
“I told him and I think I had the right to tell him. If he has another opinion he can also tell me that. I said that he has to hold his line, it’s not ok to come so much to the right. It’s about having an argument about it, and maybe coming to a conclusion.
“But it’s ok, it’s a sprint, it’s full of emotions and also that crash happened, I was lucky to avoid it and I thought I could still go for the win. I think it was in my legs today. Sprinters are full of emotions in the minutes after a sprint finish. From now it’s ok and tomorrow is another day.”
Kittel looked to have placed what has been a torrid, largely winless season back on track yesterday when he emerged victorious on the criterium-style opening stage in Warsaw. With a short cobbled climb just before the flamme rouge, and a 90-degree right-hand bend at 80 metres to go, he managed to triumph in a final that was perhaps not best suited to his raw speed and power. That was a sign that his form, an unknown for so much of the season, is in a good place, and he was frustrated not to be able to come away with another win to show for it.
“I wanted to win today and I think I was still the fastest in the sprint finish but I had to avoid the crash on my right,” he said. “They fell into my front wheel, so that took a few seconds where I couldn’t accelerate, then as soon as I could start my sprint again Pelucchi came from the left into my handlebars and that took again a second where I couldn’t push my pedals. In the end it wasn’t long enough anymore to pass him.
“As a team we did it in a really good way, we could have been a bit more at the front in last 1.5km but that was not necessarily a problem, it was just very hectic and I guess that happens, that’s part of sprinting. Now I have to move on, we have to move on as a team, and we look to tomorrow.”