Marcel Kittel took his second stage win of the 2014 Tour de France as he won a sprint finish down the Mall in London on Monday.
The third stage of the Tour—the last in England after the previous two Yorkshire-based stages—saw the Giant-Shimano rider beat Cannondale's Peter Sagan into second as Vincenzo Nibali stayed in the yellow jersey by two seconds.
Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau both broke away from the peloton from the start and maintained a healthy gap to the main pack until they were reeled in with under 10 kilometres to go.
A mainly serene stage starting in Cambridge was given an added edge as the rain came down as the riders entered England's capital.
But Kittel looks in serene form and was led out perfectly by his teammates to confirm a second stage win.
|6||Danny van Poppel||Netherlands||Trek||+0|
|7||Heinrich Haussler||Australia||IAM Cycling||+0|
|8||Jose Joaquin Rojas||Spain||Movistar||+0|
|10||Daniel Oss||Italy||BMC Racing||+0|
As with the two previous stages from Leeds to Harrogate and then York to Sheffield, the British public were out in droves as the race started in relaxed fashion for what was predicted to be a fairly no-nonsense sprint stage.
Indeed, the initial breakaway was allowed to stay out as the teams of the top sprinters—the likes of Kittel, Sagan and Lotto Belisol's Andre Greipel—then took up the pace in the knowledge they would eventually reel the leading pair in.
Lars Bak again at the front of the peloton helping to control the gap #TDF— Lotto Belisol (@Lotto_Belisol) July 7, 2014
The 115-km stage was largely flat and, unlike Sunday's stage, the main contenders for the yellow jersey were content to sit with the main pack, feeling no need to mount any attacks.
As the race entered London, the peloton inevitably wiped out the gap to the leaders, and Giant-Shimano led off an early dash to the finish.
Kittel was sent on his way and proved too much for Sagan—despite the Slovak locking on to his back wheel—while Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Mark Renshaw completed the podium.
|5||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||40|
|8||Jose Joaquin Rojas||Movistar||30|
Sagan stays in the green jersey but Kittel commented post-race about the support and the pace on the sprint finish per ITV4, via BBC Sport:
"That is the fastest I think I have been on a sprint finish. The crowd was fantastic."
|2||Peter Sagan||Cannondale||+2 secs|
|3||Michael Albasini||GreenEdge||Same Time|
|4||Greg Van Avermaet||BMC Racing||st|
|7||Alberto Contador||Tinkoff - Saxo||st|
|9||Jurgen Van den Broeck||Lotto||st|
Nibali maintained his two-second lead in the general classification by finishing in the main pack along with other yellow-jersey contenders Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, who finished safely.
|2||Blel Kadri||La Mondiale||5|
After three stages in England, the race moves on to France for Stage 4, a fairly hilly but not overly challenging 163.5-km stage ahead of the cobbled treachery of Stage 5 on Wednesday.
It should offer another opportunity for the sprinters to take a stage win, and on this performance it looks as though Kittel is the man to beat—especially with Mark Cavendish out of the race.
Kittel's victory tops off a wonderful opening three days in England. The riders now cross the channel as the race moves forward and gets ever more competitive.