A puncture during a critical moment of the race may have dashed the hopes of Marcel Kittel during the opening road stage at Paris - Nice but the Argos-Shimano sprinter made good the following day into Cérilly by taking a dominant sprint victory.
Kittel's puncture the day prior meant he missed the decisive split and found himself in a fruitless chase to the finish. The big German finished 1:53 down on the stage winner Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and vowed "to take revenge". When Bouhanni crashed out and FDJ stopped working at the front, Argos took the initiative to keep up the momentum.
"Yesterday we had bad luck," said Kittel on his team site. "I punctured at a key moment in the race and missed the first group, so we had to take revenge, and that is exactly what we did."
"We lost the race leader, Bouhanni, so his team stopped working and we took the responsibility together with Orica GreenEdge. But it was not easy to control the bunch and it was very chaotic. When we brought back the four leaders it became clear that we were heading for a bunch sprint," he added.
The presence of the Argos-Shimano team at the front was a familiar sight, first witnessed this year at the opening round of the WorldTour at the Tour Down Under but this time he wouldn't disappoint at the finish. The rider who experienced a difficult start to the year had already bounced back from a winless Down Under to win the first stage at Tour of Oman but this was arguably sweeter than he last.
Kittel's teammates ensured the pace was kept high until the final moments but instead of following the wheels, their leader was sitting back and waiting for right moment to strike on the slight uphill run to the line.
"We had planned to stay together and come to the front with our train really late, and that's what we did," said Kittel. "Our team did a perfect job in the finale, keeping the train together and staying up front.
"I was able to start the sprint late, with 200m to go, and I went around and was able to win. I am really proud of the team. It was a very long day, not easy, but everyone worked hard until the final meters."
With a two wins already in his pocket at the ‘Race to the Sun' Kittel is more than happy to continue using the week to build his form.
"Now the race for the GC will start. I do not expect any more opportunities, so I will stay in the bunch and survive the upcoming hard days."
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