Marcel Kittel is the dominant sprinter at the Tour de France
Stage 11 was another opportunity for the sprinters to claim a stage victory before the riders move into the high mountains once again. Chris Froome climbed on his bike wearing the yellow jersey for the 50th time in the Tour de France. The stage ended in predictable fashion as German rider Marcel Kittel claimed victory. Kittel is making the most of an absent Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan and has now notched up 5th stage wins at this edition of the tour.
Marco Marcato, Maciej Bodner, and Frederik Backaer went early in a three-man breakaway. The peloton were happy for them to take an advantage and things were pretty quiet until the final 30km or so.
FDJ are not having the best of times at this year’s Tour de France. TV cameras transmitted images of a stationary peloton. No, it wasn’t a repeat of the 1998 riders’ strike, but a lack of concentration leading to a crash involving Arthur Vichot. AG2R’s Romain Bardet required a bike change, suggesting that he too had been involved in the chute. Astana subsequently announced the retirement of Dario Cataldo, that is, of course, a big blow for Fabio Aru and his dreams of winning the Tour de France. Next, it was the turn of Aru’s rival, Alberto Contador, who crashed with less than 20Km to go. Contador hasn’t had the best start to the Grand Tour, he was quick to remount his bike and make his way back up to the peloton.
With just 8Km to go, it was the lone figure of Bodnar out in front with an advantage of 40 seconds. The Polish rider hung on until he was caught by the chasing pack inside the last 1KM. As the sprinters cranked up the wattage there only going to be one winner. Kittel, wearing the green jersey outsprinted the challenging pair of Dylan Groenewegen and Edvald Boasson Hagan.
Stage 12 takes the riders 214.5KM from Pau to Peyragudes over six climbs, including an hors catégory of Port de Balés and two category one climbs. The riders will continue to suffer in the final 1Km, where peaks of 16% will undoubtedly open up a few gaps.
The race moves on into the high mountains. It’s the turn of the climbers to inflict pain and misery on the peloton. The task for Aru, Bardet and Rigoberto Uran seems simple, to take time out of Froome’s lead, that is easier said than done. Nairo Quintana will have to pull something special out of the bag during the next week, he is currently 2’13” adrift of Froome in the GC classification. Team Sky will be made to work hard to protect the yellow jersey, especially with the absence of Geraint Thomas.
If stages 10 and 11 weren’t inspiring, stage 12 promises to be. The weather forecast looks favourable for the riders. We have already learned that anything can happen on a Grand Tour. There could be many talking points at the end of tomorrow’s mountain stage?