Marcel Kittel took his fifth victory of the 2017 Tour de France in Pau today, beating Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) into second and third places respectively. It brought his total tally of Tour stage victories to 14
On paper, it should have been an easy day for the peloton, who took off from Eymet at noon and allowed only three riders to join the breakaway: Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates).
The trio opened a five-minute gap over the bunch, but the sprinters teams sent riders to the head of proceedings and pulled the escapees back until they had them in their sight, with around 25 kilometres remaining. At that moment, Bodnar attacked his companions and forced the peloton to start a frantic chase on the narrow and twisty roads of Pau.
Jack Bauer, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar put in some mammoth stints at the front and pegged the Pole back to ten seconds. Inside the final kilometre, Bodnar was still leading, but Fabio Sabatini closed the gap with 300 metres to go, before Marcel Kittel timed it to perfection and unleashed his huge acceleration on the finishing straight, which netted him victory number five at the 2017 Tour de France.
Minutes after the crossing the line, an over the moon Kittel explained the anatomy of his sprint in Pau, which helped him extend his advantage in the points classification.
“In a sprint it’s like a game of Tetris. In the last days I always got the right gaps, never made a mistake and all the sprinting lines were perfect. Today it wasn’t easy, with 200 kilometres in store and ahead of a tough day in the mountains. Could have been worse with the winds, but the direction wasn’t good for a crosswind”, the German said.
“In the final 500 metres, I was in the tenth position and looking for a wheel, so I jumped into Bouhanni’s before moving into the wheel of Matthews. Then I just launched my sprint and that was that. To have so many wins at this Tour de France is incredible and makes me very happy!”
Kittel didn’t forget his teammates, as he said: “We have a lot of champions in the team and to have them working for me is a big motivation and huge honor. The boys were outstanding since the start of the Tour, rode their heart out for me and these victories are also for them. We are a great team and I think you could see that on every single stage.”