Early break, chase, sprint, Kittel win. It's a predictable occurrence these days. It's right about now I really start to miss Mark Cavendish, perhaps the best chance of dethroning Kittel from his place top the sprint hierarchy in this year's Tour. But that said, we did have some more interesting parts of today's stage.
First, Europcar's Thomas Voeckler made it into the break with Cofidis' Luis Maté, but the two were kept on a short leash, as with all the other breakaways in this year's Tour so far. Voeckler uncharacteristically waited for his breakaway companion after a mechanical just prior to the intermediate sprint, but before long Voeckler did what Voeckler does - attack his mates (or, not wait when they get flats) and make faces at the camera. Despite all the tongue wagging, head rolling, and out of the saddle thrashing, Voeckler was brought to heel with just under 20 kilometers to race.
Behind Voeckler, it was crash city as Chris Froome went down early in the stage and is off for x-rays after riding the remainder of the stage with his wrist in a brace. At 30 kilometers to go, Greg Henderson and two other Lotto-Belisol riders went down in a slick roundabout. Later, Peter Sagan appeared to hit the deck, but it proved minor and within ten kilometers he was back at the front of the bunch jostling for position behind the Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma - Quickstep leadouts.
For once, the Giant-Shimano leadout fizzled early and Katusha took control for Alexander Kristoff. Their effort seemed too early as well as Kristoff hit the front outside of 250 meters from the line, but a little hesitation from Mark Renshaw and Kittel gave the Norwegian a gap early on that proved difficult to close. Inside the final 50 meters Kittel and company were spread wide across the road and closing fast on Kristoff and at the line it was Kittel taking the win by half a wheel ahead of Kristoff and Arnaud Démare.
Nothing changed in the major classifications, though Sagan padded his green jersey lead by taking third in the intermediate sprint atop a climb in the middle of the stage and fourth in the sprint. Andy Schleck failed to start due to tearing a ligament in his knee in a crash yesterday.
- Marcel Kittel (Giant - Shimano)
- Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
- Arnaud Démare (FDJ)
- Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
- Bryan Coquard (Team Europcar)
- André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)
- Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma - Quickstep)
- Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing)
- Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida)
- Daniel Oss (BMC)
- Vincenzo Nibali
- Peter Sagan at 2"
- Greg Van Avermaet at 2"
- Peter Sagan (158pts)
- Marcel Kittel (135pts)
- Bryan Coquard (121pts)