Tour de France stage 3: Kittel wins sprint finish

German cyclist Marcel Kittel blasted away the competition during an intense sprint into London for stage three of the Tour de France. It was Kittel's second stage win out of the three fought on British soil.

Tour de France stage 3: Kittel wins sprint finish
Marcel Kittel celebrates after winning stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France on Monday. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

Marcel Kittel emphasized his status as the best sprinter in the world by winning Monday's third stage of the Tour de France in a bunch finish at Buckingham Palace, London.

The 26-year-old German won his second stage out of three at this year's Grand Boucle as he proved too strong for the competition down the final straight.

"It was awesome, I'm really happy I could win this stage in front of Buckingham Palace. There were amazing crowds, great scenery, the team did a really good job which was a great advertisement for our lead-out train," said Kittel.

Without former world champion and 25-time Tour stage winner Mark Cavendish for competition, Kittel looked in a class of his own.

Kittel admitted Cavendish's absence made his job easier.

"That's one big opponent that's not in the race anymore. Of course it changes things for me and also the team. We have to take it into account for the next few stages," said the German.

Cavendish crashed on the finish to the first stage in Harrogate on Saturday and dislocated his collarbone, withdrawing from the race before the start of Sunday's second stage from York.

Launched perfectly by his Giant-Shimano team, the battle behind Kittel was merely for his back wheel and the slipstream his huge frame provides.

Peter Sagan, who took second on the stage ahead of Australian Mark Renshaw, won that particular battle but never had the strength nor the belief to try and dive out from behind Kittel to go for the win.

Slovak Sagan at least held onto his green points jersey, though.  

 Kittel simply led home a procession, turning the final dash to the line into a demonstration of his pace and power.

Having suffered over Sunday's gruelling 201km hilly grind from York to Sheffield, the overall contenders took it easy through Monday's stage.

Race leader and yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali kept out of trouble while twice former winner Alberto Contador tested his legs in the final few kilometres by keeping near the front, more to stay away from potential danger than to try to finish high up.

He was wise to do so as there was a crash further back around 1.5km from the line.

Reigning champion Chris Froome was another to enjoy a fairly anonymous day, although the same could not be said for his Sky teammate David Lopez, who clipped a fan that had strayed too far out into the road to take a picture.

Lopez survived the incident but it created a concertina effect behind in the peloton which saw former winner Andy Schleck go down in a spill.

Frenchman Jean-Marc Bideau and Jan Barta of the Czech Republic were the escapees of the day, heading off straight from the start and lasting almost 150km in the lead.

On a day that was always a near certainty to end in a bunch sprint the 18 World Tour teams didn't bother to get involved in the breakaway, leaving two of the four invited teams to jump on the chance for some extended time in front of the television cameras.

They went close but Bideau gave up the ghost with 8km left and Barta battled on for another 2km before agonizingly succumbing to the inevitable.

   1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 13hr 31min 13sec
   2. Peter Sagan (SVK/CAN) at 0:02sec
   3. Michael Albasini (SWI/ORI) 0:02.
   4. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 0:02.
   5. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:02.
   6. Bauke Mollema (NED/BKN) 0:02.
   7. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 0:02.
   8. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:02.
   9. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/LTB) 0:02.
   10. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:02.
   11. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:02.
   12. Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 0:02.
   13. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 0:02.
   14. Tiago Machado (POR/APP) 0:02.
   15. Rui Costa (POR/LAM) 0:02.
   16. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 0:02.
   17. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 0:02.
   18. Richie Porte (AUS/SKY) 0:02.
   19. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LTB) 0:02.
   20. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/OPQ) 0:02.

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.