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German riders and teams step up in 2017 Tour de France

The 2017 Grand Depart was in Düsseldorf, Germany, and it was a portent of things to come. At the end of the race in Paris, German riders had claimed more than half of the stage wins and two of the special jerseys. One German rider and the two German registered WorldTour teams combined to put their stamp on the Tour de France.

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) dominated the early part of the race, winning five of the 11 early stages. That naturally put him in the green points jersey, which he held for 12 days. He was weakened by a cold and stomach problems, which saw him drop from the peloton early on several stages. A crash early on Stage 17 proved to be too much and he had to abandon.

That merely moved the green jersey to a rider on a German team – Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb. The Australian became stronger as Kittel grew weaker. He won two stages and so closed the gap on Kittel in the points competition. He was only nine points behind Kittel when the latter had to abandon. In the end, Matthews won the jersey by a large margin over another German rider, Andre Greipel.

Ironically, the green jersey was widely expected to be won for a sixth time by Peter Sagan, who also rides for German team Bora-Hansgrohe. However, a controversial jury decision saw him thrown out of the race after stage 4 for dangerous riding that lead to Mark Cavendish crashing into the barriers and out of the race. Bora-Hansgrohe may have lost Sagan early on, but still took home two stage wins. Sagan won the uphill sprint on stage 3 in Longwy, just ahead of Matthews. The more surprising win for the team was Maciej Bodnar's win in the stage 20 time trial.

Team Sunweb also won the King of the Mountains jersey with Warren Barguil, who also contributed two stage wins to the tally. The young Frenchman also claimed the final "most combative rider" award, in yet another controversial decision.

Greipel and Degenkolb left frustrated

While Kittel shone in the race, other top German riders put in more disappointing performances. World time trial champion Tony Martin couldn't do better than fourth in either of the time trials. Greipel was second in the points competition but was 136 points behind Matthews. It was the first of his seven Tours de France without a stage win. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was again left frustrated after his search for his first Tour win continued. He could only point to second, third, and fifth place finishes as signs he was at least competitive.

In total, the German riders and teams won 11 stages and held the green jersey for 16 days before claiming the final title, and the polka-dot jersey for 13 days, taking home the final title, as well as the overall most combative rider title.

It was a continuation of German success from the Giro d'Italia, where Greipel was more successful. He won a stage there, which gave him the pink jersey for one day, and he also wore the points jersey for three days.

Bora-Hansgrohe also had its moments at the Giro d'Italia with Lukas Pöstlberger unexpectedly winning the first stage. He had the leader's pink jersey and the points jersey for one day, and the best young rider for two days, and that stage win gave Bora-Hansgrohe a day as best team. Teammate Cesare Benedetti was King of the Mountains for one stage.

The big winner in Italy, of course, was for German-licensed Team Sunweb. Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin took the overall title, wore the pink jersey for 11 days and the mountain jersey for two, and also won two stages.

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