Tour de France 2017: Marcel Kittel sprints to stage two success

German celebrates tenth Tour stage win as Chris Froome escapes bad injury in big crash

Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors) sprinted to victory on stage two of the 2017 Tour de France in Liege after a frantic bunch sprint.

The German fast man outsprinted French champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) to claim the tenth Tour de France stage win of his career.

Dimension Data’s Mark Cavedish’s late surge saw him finish fourth – one of two Brits in the top ten alongside seventh-placed Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates).

Marcel Kittel sprinted to victory on stage two of the 2017 Tour de France in Liege (pic – Sirotti)

As the opening time trial had been, the stage was beset by bad weather and defending champion Chris Froome and last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet both hit the deck in a huge crash at the front of the peloton with 30km to go.

But both men, along with all of their GC rivals, remounted and finished safely in the peloton, however, as Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) held on to the maillot jaune.

Rolling out in Dusseldorf, four riders got in the day’s breakaway – Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), Yoann Offredo (Wanty Groupe-Gobert), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro).

The advantage was never significant, but it was enough to keep them out for the whole day as the sprint teams set the tempo in the bunch.

Geraint Thomas rolled out in the yellow jersey – the first Welshman ever to pull on the Tour de France’s maillot jaune (pic – Sirotti)

The intermediate sprint gave a first opportunity to see the lay of the land with regard the sprinters’ green jersey ambitions and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) led the peloton through.

With the rain returning, the peloton always appeared wary – with standing water leading to a very cautious pace.

The nerves proved justified too, as they crossed into Belgium on the slick roads – a huge crash at the front of the peloton taking down Froome, Bardet, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) among many others.

Froome was ushered back to the peloton by Michal Kwiatkowski and Christian Knees – his bib shorts having borne the brunt of his impact with the pavement – but there were no other visible signs of long-term damage.

Bardet too was back involved, though the delay in the bunch slowed the momentum of the chase.

Phinney – who took both climbing points on offer to claim the polka dot jersey – and Offredo sensed an advantage and pressed on, the gap holding at 40 seconds with eight kilometres to race.

Kittel celebrates his tenth Tour de France stage win on the podium (pic – Sirotti)

But the sprint teams were not to be denied, catching the two leaders in the final kilometre and teeing up an outstanding sprint finish with all of the big names involved.

Bora-hansgrohe dropped world champion Peter Sagan at the front, but the Slovakian was unwilling to lead the sprint out as Andre Greipel opened up his acceleration from behind.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) charged through the middle, but when Kittel kicked he was simply too good for his rivals – holding off the challenge of Demare and Greipel behind him.

Cavendish, meanwhile, started from well back on the right-hand side of the road to charge through for fourth place.

Chris Froome escaped without serious injury after a huge crash with 30km to go (pic- Sirotti)

Kittel’s emotion at his tenth Tour stage win showed after the finish, crying afterwards and admitting: “It would be wrong to say I had no expectation or no pressure – it all comes out now. It was, for me, a big hope to start in Germany and win at the end of that stage.

“If we are honest and look through the plan, it didn’t work at all. I was just jumping from wheel to wheel, jumping through small gaps, and in the end was able to get right to the front. I am super relieved.”

Kittel is now just six seconds behind Thomas overall, thanks to bonus seconds, but it will be Thomas as the race crosses into France for the first time on stage three.

Tour de France 2017: stage two – report

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – QuickStep Floors – 4.37.06hrs
2) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – ST
3) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal
4) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Dimension Data
5) Dylan Groenewegen (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo
6) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida
7) Ben Swift (GBR) – UAE Team Emirates
8) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis
9) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Team Sunweb
10) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Bora-hansgrohe

General classification

1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 4.53.10hrs
2) Stefan Kung (SUI) – BMC Racing +5”
3) Marcel Kittel (GER) – QuickStep Floors +6”
4) Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) – Team Sky +7”
5) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – QuickStep Floors +10”
6) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +12”
7) Jos van Emden (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +15”
8) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Team Sky – ST
9) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Dimension Data +16”
10) Nikias Arndt (GER) – Team Sunweb – ST

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