Kittel wins sprint finish, Cavendish 4th
Geraint Thomas holds yellow jersey, Froome crashes on wet corner
LIEGE, BELGIUM» The thriving current state of German cycling stood out in sharp contrast to the sport’s dirty past during the second stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.
As Marcel Kittel rode toward a commanding sprint victory to conclude a leg that began before large crowds in Duesseldorf, Germany, disgraced 1997 champion Jan Ullrich stood by the road as an uninvited spectator.
“It makes me really, really proud to see that this sport is now well accepted again in my home country,” Kittel said. “There was definitely a time where not so many spectators were standing next to the road. And those who were there were showing signs with EPO syringes or other (stuff ).”
Without any teammates in the final 500 yards of a mostly flat stage concluding in Liege, Kittel wisely stayed on his rivals’ wheels before bursting ahead at the final moment for his 10th career stage win in the Tour.
Meanwhile, three-time champion Chris Froome had to work hard to catch up with the main pack after falling to the pavement amid a mass crash on a wet corner.
Froome’s Sky teammate Geraint Thomas held on to the leader’s yellow jersey.
Froome was near the front of the peloton when a Katusha rider ahead of him lost control coming around a sharp turn with about 20 miles to go. The domino reaction also took down last year’s runner-up, Romain Bardet.
Froome’s shorts and several layers of skin were torn and he had to change bikes as three teammates paced him back to the peloton.
“I have no injuries thankfully. I’ve just lost a little bit of skin on my backside,” Froome said. “That’s the nature of the race. We knew it was slippery conditions and every time you put the race numbers on there’s a big risk something could happen.
“Someone slid just a few wheels ahead of me and at those speeds you just can’t avoid it,” Froome said. “A few of us went down but everyone is OK.”