When Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked in the final kilometres of the third stage, blowing the peloton apart, the stage looked to be over for the pure sprinters. Though the climbs presented were only of moderate gradient – steep enough to make their presence felt, but nothing to seriously trouble the WorldTour elite – the sheer pace at the front of the bunch as the road pointed skywards appeared to have been too much for the fast finishers.
However, where such moves have been enough to distance Marcel Kittel in the past, this time he was prepared, and responded with a determiend effort to remain safely in the bunch. Shorn of his lead-out train, Kittel stayed out of trouble and then picked his moment in style. Emerging from the group in sight of the line, once he was contesting the sprint there was only ever going to be one winner. Mark Cavendish has earned plaudits through his career for his performances in similar situations – a great sprinter, is more than just the fastest man in the final kilometre. Today, Kittel proved he is learning fast how to read a race and deal with such situations. It makes the outlook very ominous for his sprinting rivals.