Tour de France hat-trick moves Kittel into green jersey
The 29-year-old equaled Erik Zabel for most stage wins by a German rider at the Grande Boucle.
Marcel Kittel won by a whisker stage 7 of the Tour de France after another sweltering day in the saddle, which took the riders over 213.5 kilometers from Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges, a new-entry in the race. It was his 12th stage success at the Tour de France, one which saw him equal the record set in 2002 by Erik Zabel, who until today was the most successful German at the Tour de France.
Kittel, already victorious in Liège and Troyes, was delivered into a perfect position by lead-out man Fabio Sabatini and kicked out with 75 meters remaining to capitalize on the excellent work of the his Quick-Step Floors team, who controlled the stage from the start with Julien Vermote, before Jack Bauer, Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar and Matteo Trentin took over and mastered the frantic final kilometers of the stage.
It was a nail-biting finish, one of the closest in Tour de France victory, with Marcel Kittel and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) as protagonists; the Norwegian opened the sprint first, but a powerful surge, blistering speed and a late bike-throw secured Marcel's third victory at this edition, one which got him back into the green jersey.
After the stage, which was decided by a photo-finish, the German was full of praise for his teammates: "First of all, I want to thank the guys, they were fantastic today. Julien spent close to 1000 kilometers in the wind since the start of the race, which is incredible, while the rest of the team protected me throughout the day and made sure I was right up there when it became serious. Having such a team around me makes me very proud."
Before going to the podium to receive the winner's trophy, Marcel took a moment to catch his breath and watch the photo-finish, which showed him take the win for only six milimiters: "It was the closest sprint of my career. Reminds me of last year's stage in Limoges, but not even that one was so tight. I'm not surprised to see Edvald up there, he's in good shape and very strong, which we could already notice in Troyes. Seeing that only six millimeters made the difference between joy and disappointment today makes me happy and grateful for having the long arms which helped me get that decisive bike-throw."
14 years ago, Quick-Step Floors made its debut at the Tour de France and came out of the race with a beautiful stage victory, in Morzine. Since then, the team managed by Patrick Lefevere grew into one of the most successful in the history of the race, winning several classifications and reaching significant milestones. Most recent was on Friday afternoon, when Marcel Kittel delivered the squad's 30th Tour de France stage victory.
The win and green jersey which he reclaimed after three days brought a huge joy to the 29-year-old sprinter, but despite today's remarkable feats and the 15-point cushion he has over the next rider, Marcel isn't thinking of winning the classification: "It's still a long way to Paris. We're just seven stages into the race, so maybe we can talk more about this on the second rest day. Until then, I'm enjoying every moment and every victory I get at the Tour."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele