Marcel Kittel of Giant-Shimano has taken his second stage of the 2014 Tour de France, winning Stage 3 in London today on the third and final day of the Grand Depart in England.
Cannondale's Peter Sagan finished second in the predicted sprint finish in front of Buckingham Palace, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Mark Renshaw, deputising for the injured Mark Cavendish, third.
Astana's Vincenzo Nibali retains the overall lead as the race heads back to France. A crash heading past the Houses of Parliament in a frantic finale took a number of riders down.
Once again, there was a huge turnout from the public today on the 155 kilometre stage from Cambridge, and while the roads used and the flatter terrain meant there was not the crush there was in Yorkshire over the weekend, once again a spectator caused a crash.
Shortly after entering Greater London, and with around 30 kilometres left to ride, a spectator had strayed out into the road to take a picture and she was clipped by the Sky rider, David Lopez.
Several riders came down in the ensuing crash, the last to get up being the 2010 Tour winner, Trek Factory Racing’s Andy Schleck - although speaking after the stage, he insisted no spectator was involved.
Two riders spent most of the day out in front of the peloton as the race headed down through Cambridgeshore and Essex, Jan Barta of NetApp-Endura and Jean-Marc Bideau Bretagne-Séché Environnement.
The pair had got away early on in the stage, but they were never given too much leeway by the peloton.
Their advantage had dropped to below 2 minutes as they passed the Olympic Stadium with less than 25km remaining and then swung east towards the Royal Docks.
Some riders having to break and rejoin the main road as the found themselves on the segregated Barclays Cycle Superhighway on Stratford High Street.
There was still more street furniture to be negotiated as the race headed back in towards the centre after passing London City Airport.
With the first rain of the opening three days of the race adding to the nervousness of the peloton, with race leader Nibali’s Astana team towards the front to try and keep him out of trouble.
Bideau was caught with 8 kilometres remaining, while Barta tried to stay out on his own, but the catch was inevitable.
He was finally reeled in as the peloton passed Tower Bridge with 6 kilometres remaining, as the sprinters’ teams forced the pace ahead of the finale, with Katusha, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Tinkoff-Saxo most prominent at that point.
As the race headed towards Westminster Bridge and the right hand turn past the Houses of Parliament, the teams of the two star German sprinters went head to head with Giant-Shimano working for Kittel and Lotto-Belisol for Andre Greipel, although the latter was off the pace in the finishing straight.
Marcel Kittel of Giant-Shimano, on his 2nd stage victory in 3 days
Emotionally, this win is close to the one I got on the Champs-Elysées in Paris last year. Winning on The Mall, that's what I dreamed of but even though I had a good chance to make it come true, it's not something I could take for granted.
It's really fantastic to win here. On the finishing line, the crowd was fantastic. I love the atmosphere. This was one of the fastest sprints I've ever done. My job was 500 metres long but the biggest fight was already over. My boys had done a great job before that. I lost their wheels at some point but Tom Veelers brought me back to the wheel of Koen de Kort.
Because of the rain, everybody was scared. But I didn't let myself being disturbed and it's a great day for us. So far I've won two stages out of three but I don't have a precise goal in terms of number of victories. I'll take it day by day. We'll keep working hard with the aim of winning more.
Astana's Vincenzo Nibali, who keeps the yellow jersey
The crowd was exceptional. It was another crazy day because of the number of fans we've seen. It was marvellous to watch all those people smiling on the road side. London has welcomed us extraordinarily well but we kind of expected that after what we experienced in the first two days [in Yorkshire].
With my team-mates, we have really enjoyed our first day with the yellow jersey. The race has gone very well for us. In the first part, I've remained in the middle of the bunch. In the second part, there have been alliances because different kind of riders had the same interest to ride behind the breakaway.
It was raining at the end but there was no danger. It might be another story when we'll ride on the cobblestones after tomorrow. That will be harder. My next goal is to complete that fifth stage with no worries and I'll take one step at the time. I'll have to pay a lot of attention. I hope to entertain my fans who enjoy seeing me in the yellow jersey, in Italy and elsewhere.
Trek Factory Racing's Andy Schleck on his crash
I'm okay, shit happens. I was very unlucky, it was not even raining, it was dry road, and one guy moved from the left to the right and I could not really avoid him and went straight down on the ground at high speed. I lost a bit of skin on the road. On the right side, on the arm, the hip and the ribs.
No spectator was involved. I guess it was my own fault.
In the end it was also really dangerous, there were gaps in the peloton. Normally it's the three kilometre rule and they keep the same time but I don't think it will be the case today. We lost something like over a minute but it's not over, the Tour has just started, in the climbs I think that will change.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.