Kittel notches the team’s 20th win of the season
The German shrugged off the disappointment of Wednesday's finish and scored his sixth victory since joining Etixx – Quick-Step.
Riding Driedaagse De Panne for the first time in two years, Marcel Kittel landed that win he was looking for, taking full advantage of the last opportunity the sprinters had at this edition and leaving his mark on stage 3a (111.5 km around De Panne). It wasn't an easy day for the riders, as the final circuit included road furniture, tram tracks and a tricky corner which came with just 300 meters to go. That's where a crash occurred, only 12 riders being left unscathed from the incident which saw the peloton come to a halt.
Well-placed at the front thanks to a fantastic effort made by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates – who protected Marcel all day long, before taking him to the first row of the bunch just as the race was becoming more and more nervous – the 27-year-old German turned on his powerful acceleration and comfortably won the stage, ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18) and GC leader Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). It was Kittel's 6th success of the season, and the team's 20th, which now see both the rider and Etixx – Quick-Step top the victory rankings.
At the post-race press conference, Marcel couldn't hide his delight after taking this victory, but he also was full of praise for his teammates: "Yesterday it was very close and missing out on the victory left me with a sorrow taste, so this morning I was very motivated to make up for it. I am very happy to reach my goal and get that stage for which I came here. My legs were good and strong, and the team worked really well. We were up there at the front, controlling the six-man breakaway with Iljo and Davide. But it wasn't about only one rider today, the entire team was impressive and I must thank the guys for that."
"I can be satisfied with what I have achieved so far since joining Etixx – Quick-Step. I got six victories, and what's more important, we can all be happy for the way we work together. Now I'm looking with confidence towards my next objectives of the season, Scheldeprijs and the Giro d'Italia", concluded the German after his 66th pro win.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele