Tour de France 2016: Marcel Kittel wins stage four

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Tour de France 2016: Marcel Kittel wins stage four in photo finish

German outsprints Bryan Coquard by a whisker to win in Limoges

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) claimed his first victory of the 2016 Tour de France, outsprinting Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) by the smallest of margins in Limoges.

Less than a hair’s breadth separated the two in a photo finish, but it was the German who emerged victorious to claim his ninth career win at the Tour.

Peter Sagan finished third, meanwhile, to maintain his overall lead – gaining a handful of bonus seconds in the process.

Marcel Kittel and Bryan Coquard went head-to-head for the stage four honours, with Kittel winning in a photo finish (pic: Sirotti)

After only one rider – Armindo Fonseca – went up the road on stage three, stage four saw four riders go clear in the day’s break.

Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Argon 18), Markel Irizar (Trek-Segadredo), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling) formed the quartet, with the whole stage tackled at a much faster tempo than the previous day.

Schillinger was first across the intermediate sprint, jumping clear to take the maximum 15 points, while in the peloton Etixx-QuickStep hit the front to lead Marcel Kittel out.

It was Sagan who got the jump on his green jersey rivals though, with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) two places further back behind Kittel.

Irizar took the sole mountain point of the day, meanwhile, with team-mate Jasper Stuyven already guaranteed another day in the polka dot jersey providing he finished the stage.

Gougeard dropped back shortly after, but with Etixx-QuickStep duo Julien Vermote and Tony Martin taking turns driving the bunch, the three remaining escapees hung off the front with their advantage at less than a minute.

The gap never looked a serious threat to the peloton, with ThomasVoeckler (Direct Energie) and Lotto-Soudal also putting in some shifts on the front.

As the gap closed to within ten seconds, Schillinger was the next to sit up and Irizar and Naesen’s day up the road ended with seven kilometres remaining.

Team Sky and Tinkoff both looked to keep their GC men safe at the front of the bunch – the latter also looking for stage success with yellow jersey Sagan.

A pinch point with 3.4km remaining put anybody at the back of the bunch in trouble, but Lotto-Soudal continued to set a fast pace on the front.

The Belgian team still led under the flame rouge, but Etixx-QuickStep came back strong with Kittel charging into position.

Cavendish was boxed in on the barriers as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) opened up his sprint.

Kittel burst down the middle, however, and looked to be comfortable only for Coquard to kick hard and go shoulder-to-shoulder with the German.

Neither knew who had won at the line, but the photo finish showed Kittel had edged it by little more than the thickness of his tyre wall.

Sagan, in the yellow jersey, finished third to hold onto the race lead, and also regain top spot in the points classification with Cavendish – who finished eighth in the green jersey – dropping down.

Tour de France 2016: stage four – result

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Etixx-QuickStep – 5.28.30hrs
2) Bryan Coquard (FRA) – Direct Energie – ST
3) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff
4) Dylan Groenewegen (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
6) Sondre Holst Enger (NOR) – IAM Cycling
7) Dan McLay (GBR) – Fortuneo-Vital Concept
8) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Dimension Data
9) Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
10) Simon Gerrans (AUS) – Orica-BikeExchange

General classification

1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff – 20.03.02hrs
2) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – Etixx-QuickStep +12”
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +14”
4) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Team Giant-Alpecin +18”
5) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
6) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff
7) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar
8) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana
9) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-BikeExchange
10) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Cannondale-Drapac

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