After winning the opening stage and spending day in the yellow jersey of race leader, Marcel Kittel’s remaining wish at the 2013 Tour de France was the opportunity to earn his stripes against the best sprinters in the world.
Finally, in Saint-Malo at the end of stage 10, the race gave the German exactly what he wanted; a chance to lift his arms across the finish in front of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
“It was something that I was really looking forward to,” Kittel said after the stage. “We had the moment when all the sprinters are there, nobody crashed and we could fight actually against each other and fight for the win.”
Although the 25 year-old didn’t actually get a chance to take his hands off the bars in the seaside town’s narrow finish, he has now won the most stages of this year’s Tour – two – with each of his sprint rivals remaining on one apiece.
“I’m very proud that I could show today how fast I am, how strong I am, how strong my team is, how well we work together,” he added. “The only not nice thing was that Tom [Veelers] crashed at the end.”
The win also cemented Kittel’s Argos-Shimano team as one of the top dogs when it comes to leading out in the final kilometres of a flat stage. Along with Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol team, they perfectly positioned their leader in the finale, allowing Kittel to follow his countryman and nip round him at the line.
“The guys brought me right to the front with 1000m to go and it was easier to sit there than wait until the last moment to sprint,” said Kittel.
Contrast this with Cavendish, who again was left with too much ground to make up after the engine of his Omega Pharma-Quickstep sprint train coughed, spluttered and misfired.
Argos moving up
During the first rest day, Kittel told CW that the team, which was promoted to the WorldTour ranks at the beginning of this year, had earned the respect of its rivals. He reiterated this at the finish of the stage, while Greipel’s teammate Adam Hansen went as far as to place them ahead of Quickstep and Cannondale in the sprint train pecking order.
“They already do a lot of work, and Argos were one of the first teams with us to work at the beginning of the race,” he said. “They work more than Quickstep at the moment and they work more than Cannondale at the moment. Respect to them; they’re riding very well and they have won the most stages so far, so chapeau!”
Quickstep, it seems, have again failed to gel when it matters most.
“I don’t think they [Quickstep] have been racing so long together and sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not,” added Hansen. “And that’s down to lack of experience together.”
Tour de France 2013: Stage reports
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Stage nine by Andy Jones
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Andy Jones
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Andy Jones
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Andy Jones
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Andy Jones
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Andy Jones
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Graham Watson