Marcel Kittel won stage six of the Tour de France in Troyes as Chris Froome stayed safe in the yellow jersey
En route to Troyes the Tour witnessed something new: a cyclist wearing a yellow jersey, riding along a tightrope suspended high above a field on a roadside as the peloton sped past. The Tour has not ensure un funambule at the roadside before or at least that was the consensus but the term is often used to refer to the sprinters, who walk a metaphorical tightrope at every flat finish, with a fine margin between remaining upright and a disastrous fall.
The sprint here was spectacular, with a second victory in five days for Marcel Kittel, who seems to have returned to his dominant form of 2014, but the German said he saw no sign that anything had calmed down since the disqualification of Peter Sagan on Tuesday after the accident that set Mark Cavendish out of the race. There are two sprinters less but its still the same oppose, everyone wants to be in front, everyone is trying to defend his position, he said. The nature of sprints is a mess.
Its all about keeping your line as long as that is all right there is no discussion. The jury attained their decision. I see it as being like a decision in football, where the referee makes a call and this is what we have to accept.
The Sagan saga will continue to provoke debate, but on Thursday the Court of Arbitration for Sport rapidly scotched an attempt by his Bora-Hansgrohe team to overturn Tuesdays decision and reinstate the Slovak, which would have created chaos in terms of how this race is operate. With Tuesday in mind, the metaphorical tightrope loomed big in the final 200 metres, as the string of sprinters emerged from a distort chicane to enter a very short finish straight.
While Kittel bided his time, his challengers massed on the right-hand side around Andr Greipel, and as the points leader, Arnaud Dmare, attained his move, the Frenchman flirted with calamity. First, he directed a slight push with his head at Alexander Kristoff, which was nothing to compare with the barrage of butts that earned Mark Renshaw disqualification in 2010, but earned an angry wave from the Norwegian nonetheless.
Immediately afterwards, in a mirror image of the move Cavendish was attempting to attain on Tuesday when Sagan shut the door, Dmare negotiated a tiny gap between another Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen and the barriers, with his front wheel all of a few inches from the projecting feet of the barriers. Fortunately, Boasson Hagen remained where he was. Eventually, as Dmare drove for the line his effort pushed him towards the barrier, and he was forced to dodge another foot. All this at 40 mile per hour or so in a few seconds.
Kittel went for a different alternative, scything around the outside of the small mass of leaders in the clear, with no one in his way; it was a risky selection, because he needed to be travelling several kilometres per hour faster, but he clearly has speed to burn. Last year I was run earlier but Mark Cavendish maintained arriving past me at the end, so this year Im leaving it afterwards, he said.
It dedicated him a margin of a complete bike length over Dmare, who is looking increasingly nailed-on to carry the points jersey to Paris. Just behind, the young Briton Dan McLay demonstrated signs that he may be running into form, taking eighth place, his best outcome of this Tour in spite of miscalculating the chicane. On Friday, in Nuits-Saint-Georges, he has a further chance to improve. Without Sagan and Cavendish, however, this can hardly be considered a vintage year for the sprinters.
On the long road west from Vesoul in heat well into the 30 s, where blend harvesters were busy in the cornfields around General Charles de Gaulles home village of Colombey-les-Deux-glises, this was a day to be enjoyed if you were Chris Froome, who flourishes in the hot. The race leader told afterwards that this was a rare opportunity for the riders to proceed steadily an average of 42 kph is not a potter by any stretch of the imagination while relaxing a little on their bikes until the final flurry.
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