The longest stage delivered the smallest of winning margins. Sheer power in a frantic finale finally delivered a win for Marcel Kittel and Etixx-QuickStep. The powerful German went shoulder to shoulder with fast finishing Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) on a real brute of an uphill drag into Limoges. Time stood still as Marcel kept the power on, Bryan rocked and rolled, and both collapsed to the ground as they waited for the photo finish result. Sprint finishes don’t come much better than this. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finished third to retain the yellow jersey and grab back the green from Mark Cavendish.
Rider of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
Two contrasting sprinters and millimetres separating joy and disappointment, this is sprinting at its finest. Both deserve the honour of our Rider of the Race but, much like the stage itself, only one can claim the title. I love watching the firefly Coquard, but have chosen Marcel Kittel. On fire all season yet without a win at this year’s Tour, the pressure to grab top step of the podium was beginning to mount for the ArgoSunGod and his Quickstepper sprint train. On paper it wasn’t really the sort of finish that you’d expect him to win, and their attempt looked over with 3.5km to go as traffic furniture on a crucial right scattered them far and wide. Yet Etixx held their nerve and with the peloton at maximum flux they regrouped to deliver their man perfectly with 700m to go. Sheer brute force and willpower got him up that 4% drag and over the line with less than a tyre width to spare – his first Tour victory since 2014. Any win is special but you could tell how much of a release this was one was for Marcel. With tears in his eyes and a voice raw with passion, he said:
I feel very emotional right now – it feels like my first stage win again. I’m super happy. I’m very proud because the team was really fighting for this win. Things went wrong in the last days and I’m so happy to be back in the Tour and to win a stage like this. I can’t believe it.
Team mate Iljo Keisse summed it up best of all: “Yesterday our train didn’t work and that was very annoying because Marcel said he had diamond legs. Today we had to work things perfectly so he could show his diamond legs to the world and win the stage.” Success breeds success they say, so let’s hope those diamonds keep sparkling. [‘Diamond legs’! LOVE that description! – Ed]
French hearts must have been in their mouths at the finish today. Fourth at Amstel Gold, third yesterday, it most definitely is not over for the Breton from Saint-Nazaire.
He’s also got great shoes…
Poetry in Motion
One of the many things we love about Twitter in the Tour de France is the appearance of the daily Twitter poetry competition #tdf133, run by Tour De Couch (@tourdecouch). Entrants must capture the essence of the stage in 133 characters or less. All the details are here, give them a follow, look out for the hashtag, and join in. Here’s my favourite from today so far …
Cannondale-Drapac’s Matti Breschel ‘blue steel’ gaze made Tweets of the Week. Here he is at today’s stage start putting that catwalk style to good use again. No this isn’t just an excuse to sneak in another photo – honest Ed!
1 Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) 5:28:30
2 Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) same time
3 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) s/t
4 Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-JumboNL) s/t
5 Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t
GC top 5
1 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 20:03:02
2 Julien Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) +0:12
3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:14
4 Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) +0:18
5 Chris Froome (Team Sky) same time
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
KOM jersey: Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
Best Young Rider: Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step)
Full race review: CyclingNews
Header image: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Image