With five stage wins and a commanding lead in the Tour de France green jersey, Marcel Kittel's July was his best yet. It all came crumbling down for the German though on stage 17 to Serre Chevalier as he was forced to abandon the race. Writing on his website, Kittel explained he is "inconsolable over the abandon."
Kittel crashed on approach to the Col d'Ornon with polka dot jersey holder Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) also falling. While Barguil and Cummings were able to remount and finish the stage, Kittel was forced to change his bike and then his shoe after breaking a cleat. 50km later on the Col de la Croix de Fer, Kittel informed his teammates and directors that he could no longer continue and was abandoning the race for the second time in his career.
"Now it is over. Unfortunately I won't make it to Paris this year. The crash today was the knock-out punch. Five km before the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer I let my two helpers know that I couldn’t go on and that I would climb off my bike at the top. That way they at least had the chance to finish within the time limit," wrote Kittel.
Kittel's five stage wins saw him overtake Erik Zabel as the German rider with the most Tour de France stage wins on 13. Having finished second in the points classification last year to Peter Sagan, Kittel was also on the cusp of claiming the green jersey and explained the pain at having to abandon when in a winning position.
"I am inconsolable over the abandon, not bringing the green jersey home, and not being able to sprint for the win in Paris," he added. "But he bruises on my bottom and shoulder were too painful to continue the race, especially since I had been weakened anyway by stomach problems for a few days and a cold but still tried to make my way through to the Champs Elysees. BUT: I still have the five wins."
A four-time stage winner in 2013 and 2014, Kittel missed the Tour in 2015 before returning in 2016 and winning a stage. Following wins at the Dubai Tour, Abu Dhabi Tour, Driedaagse De Panne, Tour of California, Ster ZLM and a fifth Scheldeprijs, Kittel started the Tour as the sprinter to beat. Buoyed by the German Grand Depart in Düsseldorf, Kittel won stage 1 of the Tour, going on to win back-to-back stages in Troyes and Nuits-Saint-Georges, and then Bergerac and Pau. He was a favourite for stage 19 into Salon-de-Provence and then stage 21 on the Champs-Élysées for the third time.
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Rather than dwell on the disappointment, Kittel added he was focused on the good memories created by his Quick-Step Floors team.
"Thanks to my fantastic team. We rocked the Tour. And that is exactly what I will take with me now. Indescribable moments, big wins and the great atmosphere along the road. I am proud of what we accomplished as a team and what I personally achieved. I wish all the best to my team and my remaining teammates on the final kilometres," he added.
"Thank also to you, my dear fans. We have celebrated an unforgettable party."
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