|Germany’s Marcel Kittel celebrates after winning Stage 3 of the Tour de France in London on Monday. (Xinhua-Yonhap)|
LONDON (AP) ― Germany’s Marcel Kittel showed he may be the sprinter to beat at the Tour de France, speeding to his second stage win this year in Stage 3 on Monday as cycling’s big event entered London before leaving England for France.
Rain in the City of London doused riders at the end of the 155-kilometer ride from the university town of Cambridge to a dramatic finish past landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster.
Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey with a 2-second lead on the most likely contenders to win the three-week race in Paris on July 27.
Kittel, led out perfectly by Giant-Shimano teammates, made it look easy as he sped down the final wide approach on The Mall with Buckingham Palace behind him. Peter Sagan of Slovakia was second and Australia’s Mark Renshaw was third.
“It was awesome,” said Kittel, who won four Tour stages last year. “I’m really really, happy I could win in front of Buckingham Palace.”
After a grueling up-and-down day through the hills and dales of Yorkshire on Sunday, amid huge roadside crowds, the pack seemed content to cruise a bit for Stage 3 ― letting two breakaway riders go free. They were caught with about 6 kilometers left.
The first three stages in England have been a runaway success with fans ― notably through Yorkshire’s hills and dales ― with many Britons waving French flags and Union Jacks.
Curbs, sidewalks and roadsides teeming with fans again caused trouble for the riders. With about 30 kilometers left, 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck of Luxembourg was among riders that had a mishap after an apparent collision with a fan who was seen on French TV laying on the ground as Schleck gingerly returned to the race.
Riders were to fly across the Channel for the start of Tuesday’s Stage 4 ― a 163.5-kilometer ride from Le Touquet-Paris Plage to Lille Metropole on the border with Belgium.
Monday’s course route notably bypassed Trafalgar Square, whose landmark Nelson’s Column commemorates a British hero of the Napoleonic Wars.