Saturday, 24 February, 2018

Kittel bursts through to win stage six

Ireland's Dan Martin Ireland's Dan Martin
Clarence Schmidt | 08 July, 2017, 01:38

At the conclusion of the mostly flat 216-kilometer (134-mile) leg from Vesoul to Troyes - the race's second-longest stage - Kittel had little trouble in the sprint finish, with Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish both no longer in the race.

Race leader and reigning champion Chris Froome had a quiet day in the saddle, barring one freakish moment when he and several other riders had to take evasive action to avoid a parasol that blew onto the road right in front of the peloton.

Kittel risked finding himself boxed in behind Katusha-Alpecin's Alexander Kristoff, but found the burst of power he needed to take his third victory of this Tour, and 12th of his career in the race.

Team Sky have been having it easy on the Tour de France so far as other teams have been taking on the pressure of the race, according to three-times champion Greg LeMond.

"I'm going to do everything to keep the yellow, but I have only got a small advantage and it's a long way to the finish".

"I'd never climbed it before but of course I saw that last climb on the Internet when Chris (Froome) won in 2012 and Nibali in 2014, so that's why I chose to attack with 3km to go", said Aru.

In the meantime, the top sprinters will have two days to lick their wounds and try to conjure up a way to stop Kittel.

While Sagan was castigated for causing Cavendish to crash, Demare got away largely scott free from criticism for a violent swerve that cut across the path of his copatriot Nacer Bouhanni in Tuesday's fourth stage, which he won.

Froome came home third behind Ireland s Dan Martin in second, and took over the yellow jersey from Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.

"The short stages are much more exciting and intense".

Nairo Quintana was the biggest loser of the day, coming in 14sec behind Froome, leaving him ninth overall at 54sec. "Unless there is a one knockout day then it will still be open", the American said.

"It s incredible for me to be back in yellow but having said that the race is far from over", warned Froome.

"When there's a photo finish you always have doubts and there again it really was so close".

The battle for green will intensify on Friday when the riders tackle a fifth stage in excess of two-hundred kilometres in seven days: the 213.5km Stage 7 from Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges features one lower-category climb but should see another bunch sprint between the peloton's fast men ahead of a weekend in the Jura mountains.

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