July 12, 2017 – Marcel Kittel continued to dominate the Tour de France sprint finishes, taking his fifth stage victory in Pau on Wednesday. Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen took second with Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway
third as Chris Froome retained the leader’s yellow jersey.

AFP / Image: James Startt

But there was agony for Poland’s Maciej Bodnar who spent more than 200km in a breakaway, only to be caught with 300-meters to ride. Once he was caught, though, there was a certain inevitability about Kittel’s victory, his 14th overall at the Tour.

The Quick-Step rider positioned himself around the top dozen riders into the final kilometer and then started to move up in the last few hundred meters, saving his last acceleration for the moment he needed to burn off the last two riders in front of him, Boasson Hagen and Australian Michael Matthews. Groenewegen tried to stick to Kittel’s rear wheel throughout the sprint in the hope of getting a tow to the line, but he didn’t have the power to overhaul the burly German.

In each of the last five years one rider has been dominant in sprint finishes, with Briton Mark Cavendish taking four stage wins last year and German Andre Greipel matching that the year before. The two years previous to that, Kittel had been the top fast man, winning four stages in each of 2013 and 2014. But he seems to be better than ever this year, and with Cavendish, world champion Peter Sagan and French winner of the fourth stage Arnaud Demare all out of the race, Kittel seems to have no competition left.

The Quick-Step sprinter said finding his line to the finish was like playing a computer game. “You know, sometimes when you’re on your top level in the sprints, it’s like playing tetris,” he said. “I’m very proud of this performance, it’s amazing, it’s going so well. The team is very well organized, I feel good and I’m always finding my route to the line. Five stage wins, that’s remarkable at the Tour de France.”

Having won back-to-back stages for the second time in this Tour, Kittel will have a couple of days out of the limelight in the Pyrenees now, as race leader Chris Froome and his rivals take center stage. Kittel, who has 14 stage wins in total since 2013, increased his lead in the green jersey competition to 133 points over Australian Michael Matthews and said he is now hoping to hold onto the jersey all the way to Paris.

“Of course, this doesn’t come for free, it’s hard work and to defend it over three weeks for me is a new experience. I’m looking forward to it.”

With at least three more possible sprint finishes to come in the race, Kittel could yet match the record of eight stage wins from a single Tour.

The 203.5km stage from Eymet, a little town in the Dordogne known for its large British population, to Pau saw three riders take off from the gun, with Marco Marcato and Frederik Backaert joining Bodnar.

They had a maximum lead of four and a half minutes but that was down to 30 seconds when Bodnar set off alone with 28km left. He stretched out his lead to 50 seconds but the peloton always had him under control and even though he made it into the final kilometer, he never genuinely looked likely to succeed.

Last year he was part of a late four-man breakaway alongside Froome and world champion Peter Sagan but was beaten to the line by both of those.

“It was so close, I’m a little bit disappointed, but what can I say,” Bodnar, who revealed his father had died two months ago, said. “Like last year, it was so close. I can be happy, maybe we can try in other stages, why not? When I saw one time with 3km to go, the bunch was still 200 meters (back), I was thinking I could still do it,” he added. But the last 400 metres was really, really hard for me, and the bunch was going really fast. That was that. I think 10 seconds more then we could celebrate something nice.”

For the overall contenders it was a second successive day of tranquility in the peloton ahead of the next two Pyrenean stages where the yellow jersey battle will surely rage.

July 12, 2017 – Results from stage 11 of the Tour de France: 203.5km from Eymet to Pau:

1. Marcel Kittel (GER/QST) 4hrs 34min 27sec
2. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/LNL) at 0:00.
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/DDT) 0:00.
4. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) 0:00.
5. Daniel McLay (GBR/TFO) 0:00.
6. Davide Cimolai (ITA/FDJ) 0:00.
7. André Greipel (GER/LOT) 0:00.
8. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/COF) 0:00.
9. Ben Swift (GBR/EAU) 0:00.
10. Danilo Wyss (SUI/BMC) 0:00.
11. Pieter Vanspeybrouck (BEL/AJW) 0:00.
12. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) 0:00.
13. Florian Vachon (FRA/TFO) 0:00.
14. Dion Smith (NZL/AJW) 0:00.
15. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 0:00.
16. Rüdiger Selig (GER/BOR) 0:00.
17. Andrea Pasqualon (ITA/AJW) 0:00.
18. Thomas Boudat (FRA/DEN) 0:00.
19. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/DEN) 0:00.
20. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL/AJW) 0:00.


Overall Standings after Stage 11:

1. Christopher Froome (GBR/Sky) 47hrs 01min 55sec
2. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) at 0:18sec
3. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:51.
4. Rigoberto Uran (COL/CAN) 0:55.
5. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 1:37.
6. Daniel Martin (IRL/QST) 1:44.
7. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 2:02.
8. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 2:13.
9. Mikel Landa (ESP/SKY) 3:06.
10. George Bennett (NZL/LNL) 3:53.
11. Louis Meintjes (RSA/EAU) 5:00.
12. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 5:15.
13. Pierre Latour (FRA/ALM) 5:30.
14. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 6:18.
15. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 6:55.
16. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) 6:58.
17. Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA/ALM) 7:56.
18. Emanuel Buchmann (GER/BOR) 8:46.
19. Carlos Betancur (COL/MOV) 10:34.
20. Brice Feillu (FRA/TFO) 11:43.