Marcel Kittel yesterday claimed a fourth stage victory in this year’s Tour de France with a thoroughly convincing performance in Bergerac.
The German powerhouse had way too much for John Degenkolb (Trek Segafrefo), Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) and the rest of the peloton at the end of the four-hour pan-flat contest.
Kittel, who became his country’s all-time leading Tour de France stage winner with 13 victories, punched the air as he crossed the line after getting an armchair ride to the lime by his Quickstep Floors teammates.
“Of course [the German stage record] means something for me,” he said.
“I never expected it when I started my career… it’s hard for me to imagine. I feel like I live in a small little bubble, in a small little world, and it’s not true”.
“I had a pretty good spot,” said Kittel of his positioning in the finale “It was still relatively far with 500m to go after the last left corner. I saw McLay started to sprint early to come to the front, and that was my lead-out, so from there on I hit the front at 220m. I feel really good in the sprints at the moment,” he added.
Team Sky rider Chris Froome finished safely in the main bunch, so he retains his overall lead, but so too were his closest challengers Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), as well as Ireland’s Dan Martin.
Aru is 18 seconds down, Bardet is 51 and Martin remains sixth overall at 1:44.
Today’s stage will see the riders tackle a similarly flat stage, from Eymet to Pau, albeit it is longer, at 203.5km.
Another bunch sprint should be on the cards and, on his current form, there would be few betting against Kittel taking a fifth win.
Meanwhile, Irish U23 road race and TT champion Michael O’Loughlin has had one of his road bikes stolen.
The bike, which he uses as his spare road racing bike, was part of consignment of kit stolen from his team at the weekend. O’Loughlin, from Carrick-on-Suir, was in Wales to ride the Velothon pro race when the theft occurred. Bikes and wheels valued by the team at about £60,000 (€67,000) were taken. They were lifted from a vehicle outside the Cardiff hotel they were staying in.
Elsewhere, Limerick will play host to the Irish cycling National Criterium Championships 2017 at the end of the month.
The event, which takes place at Limerick Racecourse, is set for July 28.
Cycling at the horse-racing venue will unfold on the two-kilometre tarmac oval track used for ambulances and other vehicles.
The criterium title has been won by Mark Dowling for the last two years. He is one of the best riders in Irish cycling, both in criteriums and on the climbs, but again there should be no shortage of challengers hoping to wrench the champion’s jersey from his shoulders.
Dowling took the gold medal in Banbridge last year just ahead of Philip Lavery. Local man Gareth McKee of Banbridge CC rounded out the podium after a cracking race.
This time around, as well as the men’s event on the night, Cycling Ireland has said a women’s demonstration event will take place.
Medals will be awarded to the first three, though the women’s race is not a full championship contest.
The men’s race will be open to all riders in the A+, A1, A2 and A3 categories. It gets underway at 7.30pm, with the medals to be decided over 60 minutes of racing, plus three laps.
The women’s race is up first, starting at 6.30pm and consisting of 40 minutes, plus three laps.
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