Tony Martin (Katusha) was favourite to win the opening time trial of the Tour de France in Dusseldorf, with Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) given an outside chance. Neither was able to make good on expectations but the two Germans were united in their praise of the enthusiastic crowds along the route despite the heavy rain throughout the day.
"The atmosphere on the course was overwhelming. The fans delivered an unbelievable spectacle," Martin said on Facebook. "I couldn't hear my radio for all of their cheers and calls – I was driven along the course by such noise.
"Many thanks to everyone who was out there. That was pure goose-bump feeling. I felt like I was in a tunnel."
The World time trial champion had gone into the stage planning to take the win and the yellow jersey, but he finished only fourth, eight seconds down on winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
"Of course the result is disappointing, since I had planned on riding into the yellow jersey. In the last three kilometers I just didn't have the punch to be able to defend the gap had built up. I must accept how the race turned out. We had a well-deserving winner.
"And I won't hang my head. There are still three weeks ahead of us, in which I can seek my chances."
Kittel achieved a top ten finish, taking ninth, one of three riders 16 seconds down. He will target victory in Sunday's expected sprint finish in Liege but even the stage winner's ten-second time bonus will not allow him to take the yellow jersey today if Geraint Thomas finishes in the same time.
Kittel also raved about the loud fans.
"My ears still hurt from the noise along the course. It was totally crazy, how many people were out there despite the awful weather. The mood was fantastic," he said.
"But it was also dangerous as it also tempted you to go too fast. After a few metres I looked at my power meter and it showed 650 watts! It was simply too much fun. But of course I took it down a notch. Otherwise I would have been cooked too quickly. That I ended up with a top ten position, as ninth, makes me very proud."
Kittel also complimented fellow German Martin on Twitter, calling him "an absolute fighter! He may not have won the yellow, but he won lots of hearts."
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