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Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) hardly got a hair out of place in the hectic sprint
Giant-Shimano man takes win number three in Lille
Marcel Kittel gasped for his breath and fought back the pain after winning his third stage in just four days of racing at the Tour de France, insisting that winning sprints is never easy despite his dominance.
The Giant-Shimano rider lost his loyal lead-out train lead out in the final kilometre of the first stage on French soil but jumped on Alexander Kristoff's wheel and then accelerated past the Norwegian to win by half a bike length. It was his seventh Tour stage victory after winning four stages in 2013.
"Before the race, I said my goal was to win one stage, and I said it was unique to be able to wear the yellow jersey and win four stages last year. So winning three stages and wearing yellow again is pretty special again," Kittel said.
Kittel is making his rivals look slow and making sprinting look easy. Neither is true.
"It's never easy to win at the Tour de France and today was really, really hard. We worked for this one," Kittel insisted.
"It was a short stage but it was fast, with cross winds and a constantly high speed, especially in the last 20 kilometres. It wasn't easy to stay together but we had our plan. I was alone with 800 metres and so had I look after myself but luckily it worked. But it could have been different. I was on the wheel of Kristoff to get some slipstream in the finishing straight and when he went early, I knew I had time to pass him. It was only when I hit the line that I knew I'd won."
Kittel said he hoped to watch the World Cup semi-final between Germany and Brazil on Tuesday evening but warned he is unlikely to win a fourth stage at the Tour de France on Wednesday, when the riders tackle the feared pavé on the roads of northern France.
"That's going to be a very difficult stage," Kittel predicted. "We have it as a goal. John Degenkolb was second in Paris-Roubaix and he's a favourite and has a lot of confidence. We'll go for it. I just hope the weather stays dry."