Paris: Germany’s Marcel Kittel claimed his 10th stage victory in the second stage of the 2017 Tour de France cycle race, while reigning champion Christopher Froome sustained a crash shock with 30 kilometres to go before going back on track.
Froome’s Team Sky teammate Geraint Thomas, also involved in the crash, kept the yellow jersey with a five-second advantage on Sunday, reports Xinhua news agency.
The 203.5 kilometres second stage, from Dusseldorf to Liege, featured 196 riders after Alejandro Valverde and Ion Izagirre pulled out during the inaugural time trial.
The heated contest began from the gun, with a point of winning the best climber up for grabs around 6.5 kilometres into the race. Four riders kicked off the first breakaway, and Taylor Phinney snatched the first mountain point of the tournament.
The quartet once extended their lead from the main group of riders to nearly three and a half minutes, before that was shortened to two and a half minutes around 145 kilometres as riders left Germany for Belgium.
In an attempt to get closer to the leading group, however, the riders in the main pack were involved in a crash featuring around 20 riders, including Froome, Thomas and last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet.
Thomas made quick response into the match, while things did not seem that easy for Froome.
With shorts shredded and backside skin scraped a bit, Froome had to change his bike twice before chasing the main group for 10 kilometres.
Phinney and Yoann Offredo, the most aggressive rider of the day, maintained their leading position while the other two riders were caught by the main group with 15 kilometres remaining.
The duo also got reeled in the last kilometre of the stage. Quick-Step Floors rider Kittel made his way to victory in the middle of the road to get past Sonny Colbrelli and Andre Greipel who led the charge on the left side.
Frenchman Arnaud Demare took the second position with Greipel on third.
Kittel also took on the 10-second bonus from the stage victory to cut the deficit against leaders Thomas within six seconds. He also wore the green jersey for the best sprinter on 63 points.
The polka dot jersey, representing the best performer in the mountainous stage, went to Phinney, who claimed points at two fourth-category climbing points.
BMC Racing’s Stefan Kung, currently ranked second on overall individual standings, was the best young rider with a 20-second advantage in hand. Team Sky led the overall team standings, 37 seconds ahead of Quick-Step Floors.
The 212.5-kilometre third stage on Monday will start from Verviers, Belgium, winding through Luxembourg, to Longwy, France, with three fourth-category climbs and two third-category climbs.