Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano outsprinted Mark Cavendish, the “Fastest Man in the World” in Stage 13 of the 100th Tour de France. This was Kittel’s third stage win in this year’s Tour.
Cavendish got a perfect leadout from his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, which had five riders pulling for Cavendish entering the final 1500 meters, while Kittel had only five. Omega’s Gert Steegmans brought Cavendish into striking distance with Kittel on his wheel. Normally, the sprint would be over at this point, a guaranteed Cavendish victory.
Instead, Kittel did the unthinkable: he pulled out of Cav’s slipstream and passed the Manx Missile, crossing the line half a wheel ahead.
Kittel spoke with Eurosport after the race.
“Both teams had no leadout men anymore. Every guy in front of the sprinters had to do a long leadout, and in the end I had to go on [Cavendish’s] wheel, to wait for my sprint. Then I started my sprint and it was close.
“It’s absolutely crazy. I feel really good at the moment; the team is great.
“Winning today especially means a lot to me—it’s the third win in the Tour. In German we say “Alle guten Dinge sind drei” [Good things always come in threes.]
“I would like to dedicate this win to my whole team, especially Tom Veelers. He to fight to day just to finish the race; he was still in pain from his wounds.” [Veelers was the Argos rider who was knocked down by Mark Cavendish at the end of Stage Ten.]
“He’s a great guy. I saw him after the finish line and he was in tears. I really love my team.”
Cannondale’s Peter Sagan took third, extending his lead in the Points classification.
André Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol team got caught up in a crash two-and-a-half kilometers from the finish; Greipel didn’t hit the road but also didn’t make it back to the front in time to contest the sprint.
The yellow jersey stays with Sky’s Chris Froome.
A five-rider breakaway started early in the stage, and the last rider, Movistar’s Juan Antonio Flecha, stayed away until the final five kilometers. The rest of the stage was a battle between the sprinters’ teams.
Orica GreenEdge was the first team to take the lead, but Simon Gerrans skidded and crashed while circling a roundabout in the lead of the race. This robbed Orica’s Matt Goss on an essential part of his leadout train; Orica was out.
A Lotto rider crashed and caused a pileup 2500 meters from the line, taking André Greipel out of contention. Omega finally rode the perfect leadout, with five riders ahead of their sprinter, Cavendish, 1500 meters from the finish. With all that firepower and the speed of Cavendish, no one imagined that the stage wouldn’t go to the Manx Missile.
Marcel Kittel ran out of leadout riders and had to follow Cavendish, normally a prescription for a second-place finish. Kittel wasn’t interested in prediction; he used his tremendous power to overtake the Omega rider on the left in the final sixty meters. As Kittel passed, Cavendish looked left with a surprised expression; even he never imagined that anyone could catch him.
Cavendish will get another chance in Stage 13: not as flat as Stage 12, but 55 km shorter, the 173-km stage from Tours to Saint Amand Montrond contains a single Cat Four climb but it comes 100 km from the finish, so it shouldn’t affect the finish.