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“It was chaos at the end. In a situation like that where it is kind of every rider for himself it is near impossible to see who will be in position. You just have to focus on finding a good wheel."

Photo: A.S.O.










20.07.2014 @ 18:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel had the rare experience of being beaten in a sprint on today's stage of the Tour de France. In the hectic finale with several roundabouts, the German was unable to rely on his strong lead-out which was unable to stay together on the slippery roads.


Marcel Kittel sprinted to 11th place at the end of the 15th stage of Le Tour de France after being isolated in the final kilometre of the race. Having spent a lot of energy in closing down the breakaway, the team were left out numbered in getting Kittel into position and he never really managed to get his sprint up to speed.


The day was made harder by the tough climatic conditions with wind and heavy rain playing their part on the outcome of the race. This made it hard to stick together as a unit while other teams also used it to try and split the peloton on several occasions. The race did come down to a sprint in the end as expected, but without the desired result for Team Giant-Shimano.


Two riders formed the day’s breakaway early in the stage and with a rare sprint opportunity on the cards and no mountain points on offer the fight to get out front was less fraught than usual.


These two riders spend the entire stage out front and despite being just two pairs of legs they put up a valiant fight against the peloton, eventually only being caught in the final kilometre.


Team Giant-Shimano, fully focused on setting up a sprint for Marcel set about riding in a Pure Sprint Formation. The team did miss Dries Devenyns after his fall on yesterday’s stage but the formation is flexible and the riders adapted to being a man down. Albert Timmer, despite spending most of yesterday out in the breakaway, played a huge role in controlling the race and bringing the gap down.


One by one the rest of the team got involved in the chase, with the positioners joining after Cheng Ji’s strong efforts. Other teams were keen to try and break the peloton in any sign of a crosswind and this played havoc with the chase. As a result the team were made to work hard to stay in position and they paid the price in the final kilometres with Kittel being isolated without accelerator or lead-out man at the end.


The wet roads and repetitive roundabouts in the finishing stages also were tough to negotiate with riders describing the roads as being like an ‘ice rink’ rather than stable tarmac. The riders all managed to stay upright and through to the final but Kittel was on his own in the final kilometre.


As the sprint unfolded it was obvious that it was not going to be Marcel’s day. At the front Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took his second win of the race while Kittel came over the line in 11th place.


“It was a difficult situation out there today with the bad weather conditions,” said team coach Aike Visbeek after the stage. “We lost contact with the riders due to the heavy rain and they were relying the occasional time gap from the race motorbike.


“You obviously have to adapt to this on the road and the guys were strong as a team in chasing hard and bringing the gap down. Cheng was suffering early on but Albert did a hero ride today. The formation was swamped in the final stages and Marcel was left on his own at the end. The guys had spent a lot of energy and were a bit short at the end – they did what they could though. It has been a tough few days in the mountains too so after what has turned out to be another pretty tough day tomorrow’s rest day will be welcomed.”


Koen De Kort said from the bus after the stage: “It was really chaotic today, at the end it was like racing on ice. Normally we stay together and that is out strong point as a team but at the end it was not possible as every time we went into a roundabout we had to slow right down and then sprint out of it again.


“Slowing like this for all the roundabouts also played into the hands of the break as they go at nearly the same speed as us. We were a few men short but still managed to position Marcel OK – Roy took us up with two kilometres to go then I took over before Tom [Veelers] tried to get him in the best possible position into the final kilometre.


“Before the final we rode well and were always well positioned in the crosswinds and stayed together. This was good but then at the end we just lacked a few guys.”


Roy Curvers added: “It was hectic out there today, I need to watch it back to see what actually happened at the end and we can then analyse it together. With the weather conditions making it hard we just try to focus on each other and the race, but it is hard to plan and also to stay together when it’s like it was today.


“The best we could do today was get Marcel into position for the sprint. We did this but you get a kind of washing machine effect and it is easy to get boxed in.


“I was feeling strong today and this gives me a lot of confidence going into the last week, but it would have been nice to put that to good use today.”


Kittel himself added: “It was chaos at the end. In a situation like that where it is kind of every rider for himself it is near impossible to see who will be in position. You just have to focus on finding a good wheel. The team did a good job and worked hard to get me to the front at the end and in position but it didn’t work out for me today.


“I am feeling good though and feel fine after falling the other day which is promising for the final week. First though we have a rest day which will be a welcome break before the mountains start again.”



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