The final procession into Paris for stage 21 of the Tour de France was meant to be a day of celebration for Etixx-QuickStep with Dan Martin in ninth place overall and Marcel Kittel ready to challenge for his third win on the Champs-Élysées. While there was no consequence of Dan Martin after suffering a flat tyre on the circuits, a broken pedal then flat tyre for Kittel ruled him out of the sprint which was won by compatriot and rival Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) for the second year running.
"It's not so many times in your life that you have the chance to fight for victory on the Champs-Élysées and I was feeling good after getting out of the mountains," said Kittel who won stage 4 of the Tour in a photo finish.
"It's a real pity and at the same time very frustrating, but there's nothing we can do about it. In this Tour de France, we had three punctures, two of which came today. That spells bad luck. Then, in the final, I was empty and couldn't go for it in the sprint. That's sport, it can happen to anyone, anytime."
Kittel finished the stage in 61st place with lead out man Ariel Maximiliano Richeze the best placed Etixx-QuickStep rider in 13th place.
Before the sprint teams had arranged themselves, Dan Martin flatted with 25km to go and with the team car looking after Kittel, he was helped out by Team Sky to ensure he kept his ninth place overall for Ireland's best GC result since Stephen Roche's ninth in 1992.
"This was a Tour of firsts: first time I've targeted the general classification, first Grand Tour with Etixx – Quick-Step. It was a learning experience for both parties, but if there's a thing it showed me, is that I have room to improve and go for an even better result," said Martin who had finished 33rd, 35th and 39th in three previous Tour appearances.
"We got 16 top 10 placings, and this just shows the incredible depth of the team. We were the only team who rode for the sprints and for the overall, we animated the race in numerous occasions and I think we have to be happy with what we did."
Etixx-QuickStep's other Martin, Tony, also had a tough day with the German succumbing to a knee injury that had plauged him for several days.
"It's tough and disappointing to abandon in the last day, but my left knee was really hurting and it was impossible for me to complete the stage," said Tony Martin who was forced out the race last year with a broken collarbone while wearing the yellow jersey. "I began to suffer since Saturday, when I came last on the stage, just inside the time cut. We will see tomorrow what is the nature of this injury."
Having enjoyed several days in the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia along with stage wins and the best young rider classification, the Tour de France haul for Etixx-QuickStep was modest in comparison with Kittel's stage win, debutant Julian Alaphilippe spending five days in the white jersey and sharing the combativity prize with Tony Martin, and Dan Martin's ninth place overall.
Tour de France: Stage 21 highlights - Video
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