While German national champion André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) celebrated his seventh victory of the season at Ster ZLM Toer, Marcel Kittel found himself finishing in almost eight minutes later in 65th pace as he was caught out when crosswinds forced a split in the peloton. Kittel is looking to find form at the stage race before making a final decision on whether he will start the Tour de France on July 4 after an illness interrupted start to 2015.
"How can that happen?" Kittel said of the stage according to nieuwsblad.be. "Well, it was a tough stage where the wind played a major role. Then you can expect this. It just failed. When the peloton was split in two, I was not well positioned."
Ramon Sinkeldam was Giant-Alpecin's best finisher in fifth place while Zico Waeytens was the only other rider from the team to make the split and finished 15th. Sinkeldam explained that he and Waeytens were caught out in the fast finale and were unable to effect the outcome of the race and salvage a result.
"During the first local circuit the crosswind broke up the bunch, as Zico and I were in the first group," Sinkeldam said. "Unfortunately, we positioned ourselves at the wrong side of the group in the sprint so I wasn't able to sprint like I wanted."
With three stages to race, Kittel is hoping he can claim a confidence boosting win as he continued to try and find the condition that saw him win four stages in each of the last two Tour's.
"No, I'm not panicking," Kittel said. "I refuse to be pinned down on this one ride. I'll continue to work hard and on Sunday there will perhaps be a sprint. Then let's see you again."
Kittel was 13th on the 6.4km prologue in Goes to start the tour having won the bunch sprint finish for sixth place behind the break at the Rund um Köln last week. Those two results are Kittel's best of the season so far besides his victory in the pre-Tour Down Under People's Choice Classic criterium which he won for the second straight year.
Team manager Marc Reef explained that Kittel needs to show he is reaching the necessary condition for the Tour despite being named in the long list.
"It was a surprise, but we should not attach too much importance to it. This race is only one part of the decision to go to the Tour with or without him. But Marcel must show improvement," Reef said.