Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) suffered his first sprint loss at this year's Tour de France. The German sprinter was dropped in the final two kilometres of the stage and didn't contest the sprint. As the speed went up, he was spat out of the back and he rolled in almost a minute down on the stage winner André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).
"We made some mistakes today, and it's quite disappointing. Maybe also very unfortunate at some points but it's also part of cycling and part of sport. We will have to see and we will discuss it tonight and we will try to do it better next time," Kittel said at the finish, after taking time to freshen up and collect his thoughts.
Kittel was in fairly good spirits at the finish - especially when a fan gave him some bratwurst. After taking the opening three sprints with relative ease, most were expecting it to be a repeat performance. The team took to the front almost immediately and marshalled the peloton for almost the whole day, taking the full brunt of the wind. It was the wind that Kittel blamed for Giant-Shimano fading in the final kilometres.
"I lost a lot of energy in the crosswinds. We could not react as a team any more. That's not criticism at all, we just didn't have the control of the race any more," he said. "It was not good, but in the end, sometimes it's good to have those moments in the race or in a stage, where you end up at a point that you did not want to be. You can find those mistakes and do it better next time."
Importantly for Kittel, he lost one of his main men with more than 20 kilometres from the finish. John Degenkolb has been doing a sterling job for Kittel, leading him out to two of his three victories. After finishing second at Paris-Roubaix earlier this season, Degenkolb was tipped as a potential victor. However, he crashed twice during the stage and injured his gluteus maximus.
Despite the injury, Degenkolb is hoping to continue for as long as he can. "My leg is really painful and the muscle really needs some time to recover. I hope that it goes more quickly than everybody is expecting," he told Cyclingnews at the finish. "For me, the only solution is looking day by day, otherwise there is nothing to do."
Kittel will have one last chance to sprint for victory in tomorrow's stage to Nancy, before the mountains begin.
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