The Etixx-QuickStep rider, a double stage winner in the Netherlands and for one day the race leader, had been dropped on the fourth category climb of Vallico della Somma late on stage 7. But having lost 20 seconds at the summit, 41 kilometres from the line, the German sprinter managed to get back on following a hectic chase and strong support from this teammates.
Once he was back in the main bunch, a second setback in the form of a flat tire through the streets of Foligno spelled curtains for Kittel’s hopes of fighting it out in the sprint.
Although Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) stepped up to the bar in his leader’s absence and took a solid sixth place in the bunch sprint , the puncture left Kittel 166th on the stage, out of the running for the stage win, and also cost the German his red jersey of points leader, which he had held since stage 2. Fellow German and stage 7 winner André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) now leads with 119 points, compared to Kittel’s total of 106.
“We had a very difficult start, more than an hour at full gas and with some bad weather in between,” Kittel said later on the team website. “Our plan was to wait and see what will happen on the last climb.
"We chased hard and just as the descent was coming to an end, we were already back in the peloton. The final was super fast and I was excellently positioned, with Fabio [Sabatini] and Matteo on my side. Unfortunately, the puncture came and the race was over.
“It's a pity that we were so unlucky, but I still want to congratulate André for taking the victory. As I said earlier this week: this is cycling, with great and sometimes not so great moments. After all, today was Friday 13th.”
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