Stage 12: Fougeres to Tours, 218km
Marcel Kittel came round Mark Cavendish to take his third win of this Tour. It was also the first time ever German riders have won three consecutive stages, making it a German triple-triple.
A five-man break of Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) and Francesco Gavazzi built a maximum advantage of nine minutes before being slowly and surely sucked back into the pack by the sprinters’ teams. Flecha, the last to be caught, won the day’s combativity prize.
It was a relatively uneventful stage where the viewers were treated to shots of magnificent real estate en route from Loire to Tours. Uneventful, that is, until Orica-GreenEDGE’s Svein Tuft slid off on a roundabout. Then, just under 2km from the finish FDJ’s William Bonnet fell and provoked a multiple pile-up which left a front group of around 25 or so riders to contest the sprint. OPQS’ Gert Steegmans provided what looked like the perfect lead-out for Cavendish until Argonaut Kittel popped out from behind to snatch victory on the line. Green jersey-elect Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was third.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Marcel Kittel was the VeloVoices rider of the day for his stage ten victory, so who or what I asked myself would be today’s worthy recipient? To be honest, there was only one much-discussed candidate on Twitter: his hair. Every time I’ve seen Kittel I’ve wanted to ask him how he manages to keep that quiff looking so truly magnificent after almost five hours under a helmet. I flew to Germany on the same flight as him in March after Paris-Nice and there was no sign of a bouncy bouffant quiff. What’s changed? We should be told. [Hair doping? – Ed]
Specifically, I want to know what prompted the new style. Was it wind-tunnel testing or did it follow from the Argonauts sprint-train training on the race track in Holland? Is it a UCI-endorsed aerodynamic enhancement or just a marginal gain? How long does it take to get ready and what products does he use to keep it looking so fresh? I suspect I may have to get Eurosport’s Petra Harangi to pose these questions if we’re ever to get to the bottom of this vexing issue. Meanwhile, the hair gets today’s VeloVoices award.
Opinion & analysis
Does Marcel Kittel have the beating of Mark Cavendish in a straight sprint? Today, yes, but not necessarily always. Kittel’s confidence is on an all-time high after wins on stages one and ten. Both teams’ sprint trains were disrupted by the crash but Kittel was smart enough to ride Cavendish’s wheel to the finish. The Manx Missile looked surprised as he caught Kittel out of the corner of his eye coming past him. It happens but it’s good news for the fans as the sprints become more, not less, competitive.
None of the jerseys changed hands today. However, there were two significant events in those battles. While Sagan still has a commanding lead of 96 points in the competition for the points jersey, Cavendish moved into second place some 16 points ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). With 307 playing 211, Sagan has the upper hand but he has to finish in Paris in order to claim his second green jersey.
The maillot jaune, Chris Froome (Sky), finished safely in the bunch but teammate Edvald Higgs Boasson Haagen-Dazs wasn’t so fortunate. He was involved in the multiple pile-up, has fractured his shoulder blade and is out of the race. That will be cause for concern for the team and its GC ambitions ahead of the last ten days of racing where Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas are carrying injuries and with Vasili Kiryienka already eliminated on Sunday.
Stage 12 result
1. Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) 4:49:49
2. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) same time
3. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) s/t
4. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t
5. Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) s/t
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 47:19:13
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +3:25
3. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +3:37
4. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +3:54
5. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +3:57
6. Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) +4:10
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +4:44
8. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +5:18
9. Rui Costa (Movistar) +5:37
10. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) +5:39
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Polka dot jersey: Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
White jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Team classification: Movistar.
Link: Official website