Kittel doubles his tally in Algarve
Three years after Tony Martin won in Tavira, his countryman matched that feat in the Portuguese town.
Volta ao Algarve continued on Saturday, when Marcel Kittel showed once again he is back to his best this season, by taking the victory on the penultimate stage (S. Bras de Alportel – Tavira, 194 km). Etixx – Quick-Step came to the front of the peloton right from the gun, and together with Lotto-Soudal controlled the four-man breakaway who took off at the start of the day: Guillaume De Almeida (Radio Popular), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Ivan Savitskiy (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Adam Stachowiak (Verva-ActiveJet). As the gap was being cut down, the peloton also witnessed two incidents involving André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Geraint Thomas (Sky): the German sprinter hit the ground in a crash, while the Welshman – second in the general classification – punctured. Both were able to return to the main group, just as the peloton was bringing the four escapees back.
After being protected by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates throughout the day, Marcel Kittel put on another big sprint and roared across the finish line with his arms up in celebration of his 5th victory of the season, following the three he scored in Dubai and the one he got at the start of the week in Portugal. The dominant win he landed ahead of Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) in Tavira – same town which witnessed a Tony Martin success three years ago – helped Marcel open a bigger gap in the points standings, which he leads, with just one stage left to go.
“I can’t find the words to express my happiness. We did a great race today and we showed again a fantastic team spirit. We can all be very proud of what we achieved”, Kittel said right after the finish, before going into a more detailed analysis of the last kilometers: “It was a pretty fast and chaotic finale. Fabio Sabatini risked a lot to bring me into a good position, and I can’t thank him enough for his effort. He took me to the front with one kilometer to go and did an incredible lead-out, leaving me to open my sprint in the final 200 meters and finish off the job.”
Today’s victory if of the entire team, because the boys looked after me all the time, controlled the race and made sure I’m in a safe position.
Not only Marcel Kittel was all smiles in Tavira, but also his teammate and countryman Tony Martin, who won the event in 2011 and 2013. Wearing the yellow jersey after the individual time trial in Sagres, the 30-year-old kept his lead and will now go into the last stage with a 3-second gap over Geraint Thomas.
“The stage was more or less relaxed, the riders weren’t nervous and everything was under control until the final 25 kilometers, when things became really hectic and many riders crashed. Even though the last kilometers weren’t easy, we did a perfect job and finished safely, which is equally important. Tomorrow it won’t be easy, but I will give my best and will try to stay with Geraint, although I’m sure attacks will come also from other riders. It’s going to be again a hard day, but I can count on a great team and we’ll see how things go”, Tony Martin said
The 42nd Volta ao Algarve will conclude on Sunday, when the overall rankings will be decided on the Alto de Malhão, a standard feature in the Portuguese race. The climb that comes at the end of stage 5 is short, just under 3 kilometers, but has an average gradient of 8.9%. Although the gaps are usually small on the Malhão, they could prove to be decisive, giving how close the race is.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele