Kit­tel takes charge

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

Mar­cel Kit­tel (above) has no se­ri­ous chal­lenger for the King of the Sprint ti­tle at this year’s Tour de France. The Ger­man sprinter won the 10th stage with re­mark­able ease on Tues­day, while Chris Froome stayed safely in the main pack to re­tain the race leader’s yel­low jer­sey. Kit­tel timed his ef­fort in the fi­nal straight to post his fourth stage vic­tory since the start of the race.

BERGERAC, France — Mar­cel Kit­tel has no se­ri­ous chal­lenger for the King of the Sprint ti­tle at this year’s Tour de France.

The Ger­man sprinter won the 10th stage with re­mark­able ease Tues­day, while Chris Froome stayed safely in the main pack to re­tain the race leader’s yel­low jer­sey.

Kit­tel per­fectly timed his ef­fort in the fi­nal straight to post his fourth stage vic­tory since the start of the race, cross­ing the line ahead of fel­low Ger­man John De­genkolb.

The stage took the pelo­ton on a flat, 111-mile run from Perigueux to Bergerac in south­west­ern France.

Froome, the three- time Tour cham­pion, will wear the yel­low jer­sey for the 50th time to­day — join­ing five-time Tour win­ner Jac­ques An­quetil in fourth place on the all-time list be­hind Eddy Mer­ckx (96), Bernard Hin­ault (75), and Miguel In­durain (60).

“A huge, huge honor,” the Bri­tish rider said of the 50 days in yel­low.

Kit­tel was in 10th place af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing the two sharp cor­ners of a chal­leng­ing fi­nal kilo­me­ter, be­fore turn­ing on the power to surge ahead of his ri­vals with 150 me­ters left and se­cur­ing his 13th ca­reer win on the Tour.

He won by a bike’s length and had plenty of time to raise his arms in cel­e­bra­tion be­fore cross­ing the line.

Kit­tel said his con­fi­dence is high af­ter his string of vic­to­ries.

“I know now from the last sprints that I can hold that speed to the fin­ish line,” he said. “I al­most can­not be­lieve what’s hap­pen­ing here at the Tour.”

Dutch rider Dy­lan Groe­newe­gen com­pleted the podium in the me­dieval town.

With Mark Cavendish, Peter Sa­gan and Ar­naud De­mare out of the race, Kit­tel strength­ened his grip on the best sprinter’s green jer­sey. French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, who had to set­tle for a sixth-place fin­ish, ac­knowl­edged Kit­tel’s su­pe­ri­or­ity.

“Kit­tel was the strong­est, he came from be­hind,” Bouhanni said. “He won four sprints out of five. He is the best sprinter of this Tour.”

Bouhanni was later fined 200 Swiss francs ($207) and given a one-minute penalty in the gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion for “as­sault,” the race jury said with­out elab­o­rat­ing. Video footage shows the French rider el­bow­ing an uniden­ti­fied rider from the Quick- Step Floors team to­ward the end of the stage.

Af­ter a plane jour­ney across France and a rest day, the race re­sumed in Perigueux for a flat ride through the lush land­scapes of the Dor­dogne prov­ince in south­west­ern France.

Fol­low­ing a hec­tic stage in the Jura on Sun­day and with two hard stages in the Pyre­nees moun­tains later this week, Froome and his main ri­vals were happy to let two French rid­ers with no am­bi­tions for the over­all race lead es­cape from the pack.

Yoann Of­fredo went on his own im­me­di­ately af­ter the race di­rec­tor waved the flag to sig­nal the start. He was joined soon af­ter­ward by Elie Ges­bert, the youngest rider in the pelo­ton at 22 years old, and the pair quickly opened a gap.

Their lead sta­bi­lized at about five min­utes as the pelo­ton moved past the Las­caux cave, a pre­his­toric World Her­itage site fea­tur­ing some su­perb hunt­ing scenes. Sec­ond-place Fabio Aru was all smiles near Domme — a pic­turesque town perched on a breath­tak­ing cliff above the Dor­dogne river — and shook hands with an­other rider at a pedes­trian pace.

“We chat­ted, ad­mired the coun­try­side. It was very pleas­ant,” War­ren Bar­guil said, sum­ming up the day.

To­ward the end, the sprint­ers’ teams or­ga­nized the chase, re­duc­ing the deficit of the pelo­ton to a lit­tle more than two min­utes with 25 miles left. Of­fredo and Ges­bert fought hard un­til the end, but were ham­pered by a strong head­wind and were caught 4.3 miles from the fin­ish.

There was no ma­jor change in the over­all stand­ings, with Aru still trail­ing 18 sec­onds be­hind Froome and French­man Ro­main Bardet in third place, 51 sec­onds back.

“It was a more quiet day to­day, with­out wind, no stress,” Froome said. “I’m al­ready think­ing about the Pyre­nees, it’s the next big goal, I’ll need to be ready.”

To­day’s stage is a flat and long 126.5-mile route from Eymet to Pau. It will be an­other day for the sprint­ers be­fore a moun­tain marathon of more than 4.35 miles the next day.

Froome said Fri­day’s stage could be de­ci­sive and the next big bat­tle be­tween the con­tenders for over­all vic­tory.

“In the past, we have seen Grand Tours shaped by th­ese stages be­fore,” he said. “That could be an­other day that could be de­ci­sive in this year’s Tour.”

AP/CHRISTOPHE ENA

AP/CHRISTOPHE ENA

Ger­many’s Mar­cel Kit­tel won Tues­day’s stage of the Tour de France. Great Bri­tain’s Chris Froome still holds the over­all lead.

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