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July 07, 2014 — Sprint king Marcel Kittel said winning a Tour de France stage in front of Buckingham Palace was almost as good as winning one on the Champs Elysees. The 26-year-old German claimed his second stage win of this year’s Grand Boucle as he triumphed on the 155km third stage from Cambridge to London on Monday.
It was his sixth Tour stage win in the last two editions and amongst those he won on the Champs Elysees in Paris in the final stage of last year’s race.
“It came pretty close to the Champs Elysees, I’m pretty sad that we’ll finish only once here because it’s a great atmosphere by the side of the road. It was one of the greatest finishes I’ve ever seen because of this great scenery,” said Kittel.
The Giant-Shimano rider has quickly established himself in just over 12 months as the best sprinter on the planet.With Mark Cavendish out of the race due to a separated shoulder suffered on the first stage sprint finish in Harrogate, it seems as if no-one can match Kittel. Accordingly the German has his eye on more stage wins.
“So far I’ve won two, from now on I’ll take it day by day, there are still other chances coming for us, I hope it works well. We will see,” he said.
He even has his eye on Tuesday’s 163.5km stage from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille, the first of this year’s race to take place on French soil.
“It’s not as easy as today but also not really difficult. We’ll see how it goes but I hope that we have a sprint again.”
Just as he had done when Kittel won the opening stage on Saturday, Peter Sagan claimed second on the day, with Australian Mark Renshaw third. But the Slovak, who leads the sprinters’ green points jersey competition that he won the last two years, seemed resigned to fighting for second place finishes when Kittel is around.
“I am very happy because Marcel is very strong. Second place is very good,” he told Eurosport. “The Tour de France is long so we will see what happens day by day.”
Kittel is concentrating on stage wins and not trying to land the green jersey and thus not competing at intermediate sprints, leaving Sagan free to fight for that jersey. His main competition there is Frenchman Bryan Coquard as German Andre Greipel seems strangely out of sorts, once again failing to get into contention in the finish. Coquard believes Kittel is beatable but says his team has dominated the sprints.
“For sure, just by his physique, next to me Kittel is impressive,” said the 22-year-old, who stands around 20cm shorter and 30kg lighter than the big German.
“The most impressive thing is his team — they put him in the place to be by the millimeter, he doesn’t make any effort. I spent a long time in their wheels, from 15km out to the final kilometer. They never panic, they remain solid. It’s the ideal lead-out train.”
But the Europcar rider added: “I think he’s beatable. Last year he was beaten (at the Tour). OK, not yet this year but maybe that will come. Last year I beat him at the Tour de Picardie so why not at the Tour de France!”