Tour de France 2017: Five-star Marcel Kittel wins again with late sprint in Stage 11

Germany’s Marcel Kittel claimed his fifth victory in the 2017 Tour de France as he timed a late sprint to perfection in Stage 11 at Pau on a day of little drama in south-west France. Chris Froome retained his yellow jersey after Alberto Contador, Romain Bardet and Jakob Fuglsang all hit the deck.

Marcel Kittel
Marcel Kittel

Kittel, the 29-year-old from the Belgian Quick-Step Floors team, cemented his grip on the green jersey with what he described as a "perfect" performance.

Few will argue with that assessment after Kittel powered through on the home straight to beat Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) for the 14th Tour triumph of his career.

Australia’s Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Britain’s Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Oscaro) completed the top five as the likes of Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) all toiled once again in the wake of a true master in action.

“Sometimes when you’re on your top level in a sprint it’s like a game of Tetris,” said Kittel, who now leads Matthews by 335 points to 202 points in the green jersey standings. “On the last days I’ve always got the right gaps, never made a mistake and all the sprinting lines were perfect – I could jump from wheel to wheel and it’s incredible.”

After another day during which Kittel’s Quick-Step Floors team-mates kept control of matters from start to finish, Kittel was quick to praise those who had paved the way for his latest success.

“It’s really nice to give the team another victory because Julien [Vermote] worked today, Philippe Gilbert worked today, Jack Bauer worked today. They are all champions and they are killing it for me. I’m speechless.”

With five sprint victories out of six – he was distanced by a crash in Vittel – Kittel has been the stand-out performer of the 104th edition of the race. “I’ve got the legs, I’ve got the mind for it and, yeah, it’s perfect at the moment,” he said. “It’s not over yet – but I’ve used all my chances so far and it can’t get worse from here.”

Kittel’s victory did not go entirely to script, however, after lone leader Maciej Bodnar of Bora-Hansgrohe held on until the final three-hundred metres before being swept up quite agonisingly by the rampaging peloton.

Powerful Polish rouleur Bodnar was the last-man standing from a trio of riders who broke clear from the outset of the 203.5km stage from Eymet in the Dordogne and built up a maximum lead of more than five minutes.

Fellow escapees, the Italian Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates) – who won the intermediate sprint – and Belgian Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) – who crested the only categorised climb in pole position – were swept up inside the final 20km after Bodnar rolled the dice and rode clear.

On a day where blustery winds, straight roads and general doziness meant riders had to keep on their toes, Spanish former double Tour winner Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and fifth-place Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) were among those who hit the deck in needless crashes.

While Contador, Bardet and Fuglsang could ride on without much ado, others were less lucky: Italy’s Dario Cataldo – a key mountain lieutenant for Astana’s Fabio Aru – was forced out of the Tour with a suspected broken wrist after a fall in the feed zone alondside team-mate Fuglsang.