It wasn't exactly the Tour de France that Marcel Kittel was hoping for and in a recent post on his website, the Etixx-QuickStep rider has expressed mixed feelings over his performance and luck at the three-week Grand Tour that ended in Paris on Sunday.
Kittel came into this Tour de France as the favourite for the sprint stages, yet he only managed to secure one victory in stage 4 in Limoges. He had two other second place podium finishes; stage 1 in Utah Beach and stage 6 in Montauban, both to Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), and he was second in the points classification to Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
"All in all I am leaving the Tour with mixed feelings," Kittel wrote. "Of course I am happy with my stage win. It is always a good feeling to win at the Tour. But we never got in a real flow, we had to work hard for everything. Naturally, you always have to work and invest a lot. But it just didn't seem to come naturally."
On the final stage of the Tour de France, a largely processional race from Chantilly to the Champs-Élysées in Paris, presented another challenge for Kittel. He was hoping to close out the Tour on a high note with a third win on the Champs-Élysées but an untimely mechanical; flat tire and a broken pedal, foiled his chances of contesting the sprint for victory.
"I have never before had a pedal break," Kittel wrote. "But I had my premiere with this, of course on the Champs-Elysees, which I would gladly have done without. I was lucky not to crash. At first I thought it was the chain, which had fallen. That usually doesn't happen. But that was probably because of the pedal break, which threw me to the right and gave me a big bruise on my behind. Only then did I see that the pedal was a goner. And then the rear tire was flat on my replacement bike. Everything all at once…"
In the last kilometres of the race, Kittel's teammate Dan Martin flatted with 25km to go but Etixx-QuickStep was looking after Kittel's mechanical at the time. Team Sky helped Martin, which ensured he kept his ninth place overall. In the end, Kittel finished 61st in Paris.
"Getting back to the field cost me a lot of strength, but of course we wanted to try everything in the sprint. In the finale, we were pretty hectic, I lost the guys in the tunnel, was far back and alone, and to be honest, my legs went and then it was over. The chase had taken more out of me than I thought."
Etixx-QuickStep can still be pleased with their overall performance as Martin finished ninth overall.
"As a team, we can still be satisfied," Kittel wrote. "With his ninth place, Daniel Martin got the hoped-for top-ten placing. We had a lot of podium placings, were very present in break groups and presented our sponsors well."
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