Tour de France Stage 21 reaction from Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish
Meet the new boss of the Champs-Elysees... same as the old boss; young, fast and thanking his team mates...

Marcel Kittel, winner of what is often termed the “unofficial sprinters’ world championship” as he took the final stage of the 100th Tour de France on the Champs-Elysees in Paris last night, says that teamwork lay at the heart of his success, his fourth stage win in this year’s race.

Lotto-Belisol’s André Greipel finished second with Mark Cavendish – winner here in each of the previous four editions and until yesterday evening never beaten in Paris – third.

Cavendish has also been reflecting on the frantic finale to the race’s concluding showpiece, a stage which deviated from the established script not only for the fact he failed to win, but also because of that late finish, plus a parcours that took the riders around the back of the Arc de Triomphe, rather than turning round before it.

Last year, Kittel abandoned his first participation the race early on due to stomach problems, but this time round he has emerged as the pre-eminent sprinter in the Tour, taking four wins to Cavendish’s two – the latter’s worst haul since his debut Tour in 2007.

Kittel wore the yellow jersey following the opening stage of this year’s edition on Corsica after he alone of the fast men avoided getting dropped as a result of a crash 5 kilometres from the end. At 23 years of age, he has emerged as the clearest contender to end the sprint domination that Cavendish has had over his rivals for six years now.

Following that victory yesterday evening, he described how his team’s homework, including research into Cavendish's past wins here, had paid off.

Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano, winner of the closing stage of the 100th Tour de France in Paris yesterday evening.

I am so proud of how we prepared the sprint and I have no words for it actually. This is something that is like a dream for me that's come true today.

To be honest, I really did not expect that this dream would come true so early and I'm really proud about it.
It takes a lot of work.

We train a lot and it's also a lot of planning and analysing. We are a really close group as a team and we did a great job in preparing the sprint and we did an analysis of the last years of the Champs-Elysées to see how the sprint works in theory and I think that helped a lot today.

On one hand, this Tour is one of the hardest races that I've never done – actually, the hardest race that I ever did – but on the other hand it was just amazing.

We had so much success, way more than we expected.

We really enjoyed it and maybe that sounds stupid but it was a really successful race for us and it brought us closer together as a group and we can be happy about that.

I'll now go and enjoy Paris. Stage 22 is coming up...!

A few sore heads then in the Argos-Shimano camp this morning, we imagine...

In previous years, Cavendish has made the Champs-Elysees sprint look ridiculously easy, with the closing lap of the race following a tried and tested script.

His team – HTC-Highroad in the first three of those years, Sky last year (when the focus during most of the race admittedly was the GC) and now Omega Pharma-Quick Step – look to keep the tempo high to avoid escapees getting too much of an advantage ahead of the final run-in, and by the time the race hit the flame rouge on the Rue de Rivoli last night, Cavendish looked in an ideal position.

The difference this year, however, is that while Cavendish’s sprint train has been dominant in each of those previous races, this year Argos-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol have upped their game and now, hitting the Place de la Concorde, they were at the front, too.

Cavendish’s recall of the end of a sprint stage is legendary – he says he can see it playing out in slow motion in his head, so here’s his view on how the closing few hundred metres went as the leaders hit the Champs-Elysees and he went head to head with the two Germans for the win.

Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step on his first defeat on the Champs-Elysees.

It was a really fast sprint. To be fair, I wasn't quite in an ideal situation like I wanted.

I said to Gert [Steegmans], go to lead me out. If I manage to get behind those two, Greipel and Kittel, that is perfect because I can go then.

When they came past I shouted to Gert, I'll stay on them, but when I came around the last corner ... I think, in hindsight, maybe I should have gone earlier.

But, for when I went I kicked really good. Andre went across the road, and I had to go around the both of them and it did take me into the roughest part of the road on the right.

So I had to go into that.

I had to stall a bit and I was able to go again. I was coming, but it was just too late to beat Marcel Kittel.

It was Kittel's fourth win at the Tour here, so it's not like I've lost to an unknown rider.

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.


gralegav [6 posts] 2 years ago

Cav blatantly blocked by Greipel, unlike him to be so polite about it....

Rob Simmonds [251 posts] 2 years ago

Blocked? Cobblers.

notfastenough [3655 posts] 2 years ago

Don't think he was blocked, but his lead-out train fell apart. Cav himself will tell you that you need to be third or fourth wheel coming out of that last bend. Cav was (I think) fifth or sixth. Kittel, on the other hand, had a train that held together and he was fourth wheel at that crucial point.

If, as has been suggested on the oh-so-reliable twitter grapevine, Renshaw goes to OPQS for next year, then we may just see a battle royale. Let's face it, Rabobank/blanco/belkin don't seem to have done much with him.

arrieredupeleton [574 posts] 2 years ago

Watching it last night it seemed Chava and Martin did decent turns on the front, then Trentin did about 5 seconds in the wind, leaving Steegmans to do an overly long lead out. OPQS just seem too keen to organise their lead-outs leaving others to come over the top in the last km. You can only really do what they do if you have the legs and last night, they patently didn't.

Wookster [53 posts] 2 years ago

He wasn't blocked!!

pepita1 [175 posts] 2 years ago

Kittel was stronger. Look at the size of him compared to Mark and Andre!

Nick T [912 posts] 2 years ago

Nah, Mark was finishing faster - he just ran out of road. The train derailed with Trentin pulling out so early and there was too much to do, that's all. Physical size doesn't mean much when it comes to top end speed otherwise we'd be seeing a lot more monster efforts from the clydes out on their bun runs each Sunday.

pepita1 [175 posts] 2 years ago

Watch the replay and look at the cadence of the three. Kittel is pushing a bigger gear with slower cadencer. And Mark had a lot of sideways movement. And yes, Mark's train wasn't as helpful.

Critchio [156 posts] 2 years ago

Cav's rear wheel went airborne too, if you saw it. That might not seem much, but the speeds they're going during their sprints it has to make a difference, his road line was shit (not him, the actual condition of the road). I also think if Cav had another 30 - 40 metres the outcome would be different, meaning Cav was probably correct in thinking he should have gone earlier. Great tour though, enjoyed all of it.

d_jp [123 posts] 2 years ago

At 2km to go it looked like OPQS were perfectly lined up..., but then they seemed to run out of steam & having a Cannondale rider that got in the mix also confused things - he slowed as soon as he hit the front meaning Cav was further back I think...

Fair play to Kittel though & a great TdF all round

wingsofspeed68 [62 posts] 2 years ago

Cav's won just about everything in his career so far but now he has a new battle with Kittel to focus on. I think the competition should benefit all cycling fans who want to see a true contest and not the walkover it's been up to now. Looking forward to 2014 and shouting even louder for Cav.

BigBear63 [79 posts] 2 years ago

We've had it easy for the last 4 Tours. Cav has not had any genuine challengers, from either individuals or teams. This year we saw Argos & Lotto out ride OPQS in the last 2 - 3Km. In the past no other team has been competing for Lead Out dominance once Cavs team were in position. Almost as if the other teams couldn't be bothered.2012 said it all when we saw Wiggo lead out until the final right hand sweeper. Psychology matters hugely and in 2012 Sky basically said (through their riding) don't bother trying to spoil the party, this is our year. The peloton complied like the true gentlemen of honour that they are. And we had the most wonderful summer as a result.

2013 was very different. Teams could see OPQS were inexperienced and that Cav would struggle to get it together behind a weak Lead Out train. So up step the 2 pretender teams (a term I use without being derogatory) to fill the void left by HTC. Of the two, Kittel is the biggest threat to Cavs future stage wins, but if they both started absolutely level I would still put my money on Cav. Greipel has been around for as long as Cav and has been beaten by him in most head to head sprints. That will continue to be the case in my view so long as Cav has no major fitness or helath setbacks. Combined with a few mishaps, which in a 3 week tour is very common, OPQS could not get the train together for long enough to give Cav the edge. Solo runs are always more random and though Cav has succeeded in past Tours, going solo on those occasions, the competition hasn't quite been good enough to hold him off.

With Renshaw moving to OPQS I suspect Cav will improve on this years stage wins but Argos & Lotto will still be big challengers. I don't expect to see dominance by any sprint team, as we did with HTC in 2010 & 2011, at the next Tour but you should never bet against Cav.

The one person we have left out of the equation is Sagan. Hhe isn't as super quick as the top 3 but then again the Canondale team are pretty weak when it comes to Lead Outs. If anything Canondale highlight the point about the necessity of a strong Lead Out train. The fact that they don't have one leaves Sagan to go solo, which he does superbly. I still havn't warmed to him, as his post race interviews and voice grate on me but this year I felt that changing. He is a great showman and a superb bike handler so deserves all the success he gets. However, I could tell from his interviews that winning the Green jersey was fine but only one stage win was not enough. I am sure he believes that the Green is a sprinters jersey and stage wins and not simply about consistency. He is pleased to win it but would have liked more sprint stage wins. Canondale will have to do some serious reorganising for that to happen but it may well make TdF2014 a great sprinters tour.

As far as Stage 21 results went I think OPQS were beaten fair and square but that Cav, effectively riding solo, did nothing wrong.