Top 10 for Kittel in nervous Tour de France finish
Julian Alaphilippe keeps the white jersey for at least one more day, after the race's longest stage so far.
After two hectic days, the Tour de France peloton decided to take things easy on Monday, at the start of the race's first week. A long and flat stage between Granville and Angers (223.5 kilometers), without any significant difficulties along the way, was in store and only one rider decided it's worth the effort to go up the road: Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), who at one point enjoyed a 12-minute advantage. With around 80 kilometers to go, as the pack was more and more on the heels of the Frenchman, another home rider attacked – Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) – bridging to Fonseca and working together with his countryman in order to stay clear off the bunch.
As the race draw closer to Angers, the advantage tumbled down, under the impetus of Etixx – Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal, who controlled the peloton and made sure of ending the hopes of the breakaway inside the final eight kilometers. The last 1500 meters came with a challenging and technical course, which included a bridge, a tricky corner and an uphill road, and all these factors made up for a chaotic finish, in which no lead-out train had a chance to prevail.
It was every man for himself in the fight to the line, and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was the one who came out victorious, pipping André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), while Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) rounded out the podium. For Etixx – Quick-Step, best man on the day was Marcel Kittel, the 28-year-old German finishing seventh, with teammate Julian Alaphilippe in 15th position.
Despite the result, Marcel – who's doing the Tour de France for the fourth time in his career – remained upbeat at the finish, confident that his sprinting speed and strong team will help him to emerge victorious on the flat stages of the race: "We rode full gas from 25 kilometers to go and it was really intense. In the finale, we were there, but we did a mistake by hitting the front too early, so in the closing meters the other guys came very fast from behind and I got boxed in. It's important to learn from mistakes, to remain calm and talk about what happened. The positive side of things is that I feel good and my legs are there. We will try again in the next days."
For Julian Alaphilippe – the first Frenchman in two years to top the U25 rankings – stage 3 of the Grande Boucle was one in which he lived a great satisfaction, brought by having the white jersey on his shoulders: "The last kilometers were really stressful and we tried to stay focused and keep Marcel at the front. It's a pity things didn't work out as planned, but there will be other chances", said Alaphilippe, who's lying in second in the GC. "On a personal note, I'm very happy for keeping the white jersey, as it was a great feeling to wear it today. I want to thank my team, the fans and my French friends who were by my side. The support I got was unbelievable and it really helps in this first Grand Tour I am riding."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele