It was the first sprint opportunity of the Tour but Argos-Shimano’s young sprinting hope, Marcel Kittel was nowhere to be seen as Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling) took the victory into Tournai. Kittel had been dropped inside the final 20km of yesterday’s stage when his stomach issues became too much for the 24-year-old.
Tom Veelers was quick to slot into the role of sprint captain and did not disappoint. He took fourth place behind three of the world’s best sprinters; Cavendish, Andre Grèipel (Lotto - Belisol) and Matt Goss (Orcia - GreenEdge).
"I grabbed this opportunity with both hands. Of course it was very unfortunate for Marcel. We worked hard on our train and it's a shame that we could not unfold it like we wanted. But we maintained our plan as good as possible and fortunately it resulted in an excellent fourth place" said Veelers.
Team doctors assessed Kittel’s condition after the stage and diagnosed the German with a viral infection of the stomach and intestines. Kittel will hope to recover over the next day before looking to get back in the mix for the more sprinter-friendly stage four.
"We’ve done some checks and luckily Marcel doesn’t have a fever. Normally, he will be able to start tomorrow. He has received medication and will get easily digestible food. We have to wait and see how quick his body reacts to that" said team Doctor Edwin Achterberg.