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Kittel stage win leaves Aussie Matthews "devastated"

Sport

Marcel Kittel claimed his fourth Tour de France stage win when he powered to an impressive Stage 10 success in a bunch sprint as Briton Chris Froome retained the overall lead.

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Kittel’s compatriot John Degenkolb was second and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen took third place with Froome finishing safe in the bunch to keep the yellow jersey.

“It was a quiet day, no stress at all,” said Froome, who like the other riders enjoyed a rest day on Monday.

“It was one of the most relaxed days we’ve had in this Tour de France. It was like having a double rest day,” he added.

“Now it’s about saving energy for the Pyrenees and the Alps,” added the Team Sky rider, who will on Wednesday spend his 50th day in yellow to match the great Jacques Anquetil’s mark.

The record is held by Belgian Eddy Merckx with 96 days in the leader’s jersey.

Sky are on course to become the first team since Merckx’s Faemino-Faema in 1970 to hold the coveted jersey throughout the race.

Elie Gesbert, who on Monday almost set his Fortuneo-Oscaro team hotel on fire after leaving a towel on an electric heater to trigger a partial evacuation of the building, jumped away at the start.

He was accompanied by fellow Frenchman Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and the duo built a maximum advantage of 5:30.

The sprinters’ teams, however, had them on a tight leash and they were reined in 6.8km from the line.

None of his rivals could match Kittel’s power as the Quick-Step Floors rider beat Degenkolb by more than a bike length to extend his lead in the points classification.

It was Kittel’s 13th Tour stage win, taking him one ahead of Erik Zabel’s German record of 12.

“I don’t see cycling from that position. It’s not about being a VIP or part of history,” Kittel said.

“I just do what I can do best, which is sprinting. I’m enjoying this huge event together with my team mates. We trust each other, and this is very special, very important to me.”

It was a different story for Australian Michael Matthews, who had to be consoled by a teammate after his chances of winning the green jersey slipped dramatically in stage 10.

Today was really one of the days where we needed to nail it. We didn’t. Devastated

A devastated Matthews took 13th place in the sprint-friendly stage overnight, Australian time, between Perigueux and Bergerac.

The result may prompt Matthews to give up his pursuit of the becoming the first Australian since Robbie McEwan in 2006 to win the honour.

“Today was really one of the days where we needed to nail it. We didn’t,” Matthews said.

“Devastated. I think it’s probably the word to put out now.”

Kittel sits 102 points ahead of second-placed Matthews, the 26-year-old sitting head-in-hands outside his team bus post-race for several minutes before teammate Nikias Arndt arrived to console him.

“I think knowing that now if I want to go for (the green jersey) it’s going to be a long battle,” Matthew said.

“I think that’s something we’ll have to discuss tonight, whether we keep going for it or we give it a miss, stop going for the intermediates and just focus on stage (wins).

“If you want to go for the jersey, you need to be up there every single day.

“Until now I’ve been pretty consistent with that but with this finish, it’s a bit disappointing.”

Matthews’ chances for a maiden green jersey title improved when sprint heavyweights Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish were ruled out of the Tour after a stage four incident.

He rued his team’s failure to executive the pre-race plan overnight.

“It was a miscommunication with the lead-out train today but we weren’t where we said we wanted to be in the meeting,” Matthews said.

“And it left me with a long sprint to even try to get into the top 15 to get to any points.
-Reuters, AAP

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