Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Marcel Kittel claimed his fourth win in five races in the UK this year when he took flight under the Liver Birds down the Strand in Liverpool for victory in the opening stage of the Friends Life Tour of Britain.
Words/Image: SweetSpot Group
The German outsprinted Nicola Ruffoni and Mark Cavendish in Liverpool, to win the stage and take the race lead and the first Friends Life Yellow Jersey of 2014.
The powerful Giant Shimano rider, making his debut in the race, has now tasted success in Belfast at the Giro d’Italia and took two of the three stages held in Britain during the Tour de France Depart as well as this latest win in Liverpool.
Kittel outsprinted Ruffoni and Cavendish, although it was Adam Blythe who had led the initial dash for the line, but the NFTO rider faded to finish well down the order.
Although finishing third, for Mark Cavendish it was another painful day on British roads in a season where ill fortune has increasingly dogged him. Having already experienced a bizarre delay with a cleat problem on lap three of the 13.8km circuit, he then crashed three laps from the end after he and lead-out man Mark Renshaw were hurrying back to the peloton following a comfort break. Riding in the shadows on a blindingly sunny afternoon they went into the back of a team car and both fell to earth.
Both remounted and rode hard to regain contact with the peloton who slowed slightly to ease that process but Renshaw indicated he wouldn’t be able to help at the finish so Cavendish was alone at the death, narrowly beating Garmin Sharp’s Tyler Farrar for fourth.
Kittel meanwhile enjoyed a relatively drama free race although his team’s decision to hug the right hand barriers down the finishing straight was perhaps fortuitous thereby missing the disruption down the left caused by Ian Stannard’s spectacular crash, in the closing kilometre.
“It was pretty messy but luckily we took the decision to stay right,” said Marcel Kittel following the stage. “To start with I thought perhaps it was the wrong decision – we had made it earlier in the race – because there were not too many gaps but then there was a crash on the left and that allowed us to move up to the front.”
“Tom Veelers did a really good job keeping me out of the wind so I could save myself for the sprint and that made it possible. I don’t know how badly Mark [Cavendish] was hurt in the crash I didn’t see it but he still tried to sprint at the end.”
“It is hard work with just six man teams. We saw that today When Mark crashed and the bunch stopped riding for a while – so we then had to work hard to get the breakaway back, luckily Sky helped us.”
Kittel clearly loves the British roads, while if you include his second Giro stage win in Dublin that is now five wins in six races in the UK and Ireland.
“I am really happy to see all the fans here and to get a warm welcome, it’s been pretty successful here for me. Maintaining the form has been hard. The season is long, I started at the Tour Down Under in January and here I am at Tour of Britain nine months later. And I will be riding in the Team Time Trial at the World Championships and a couple of races after that.”
“I have definitely had ups and down. It’s really about keeping fresh and enjoying the time – sometimes I go mountain biking and just having some fun with the team and not to be too serious.”