I’ll start off with something I heard Frederik Backaert (Wanty) say to Marco Marato(UAE-Emirates) while riding at the front of the breakaway with some 115k to go: “I think Kittel is going to win today”.
Marato replied: “I agree, he finds the power at the right time”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the respect Herr Kittel has struck in the hearts of his opponents.
Kittel has reached half the record of eight stage victories in a single Tour hold by Charles Pélissier (1930), Eddy Merckx (1970, 74) and Freddy Maertens (1976), some of them having been conquered at the time of the "half-stages".
He has four other occasions to win a bunch sprint this year: today in Pau, stage 16 at Romans-sur-Isère, stage 19 at Salon-de-Provence and stage 21 in Paris.
And given his form, 8 seems a very real possibility.
Halfway through the tour, in yet another flat stage (last one before the peloton goes vertical tomorrow in the Pyrenees), the only “real” threat for the riders amidst the pleasant temperatures, was the headwind.
Marcato, Backaert and Maciej Bodnar(Bora Hansgrohe) were the riders to breakaway today. With the peloton not chasing them down they built a nice lead of 2’30” and gradually it swelled to 4+ minutes.
Tiago Machado (Katusha), Julien Vermote(Quickstep Floors) and Lars Bak(Lotto Soudal) were at the head of the peloton controlling the pace for their main men : Alexander Kristoff, Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel.
With 105 to go, Philippe Gilbert replaced Vermote at the front.
If I’m honest, nothing much happens in these sprint stages till the end. And because I’m in Paris right now, running low on sleep, I will rant.
This man is Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).
Yesterday, he did this:
If it was not clear, he punched Jack Bauer(of Quickstep-Floors, not of the TV show 24).
See the video carefully, he raises his hand, punches Bauer.
Quite similar to Sagan, except Sagan elbow (and not punch) went up after Mark Cavendish was falling.
Sagan, was disqualified for an unintentional elbow.
Bouhanni, I expected would be stoned to death by UCI.
But no, UCI judges issued Bouhanni with a penalty of one minute in the general classification and a fine of 200 CHF, they did not even relegate him from the final sprint in Bergerac, where he finished sixth behind Marcel Kittel.
The lady in lime, represents my reaction to this decision. My action is represented by the boy on her right.
There was a nasty crash in the feed zone. Perrig Quéméneur (Direct Energie), Dario Cataldo (Astana) and John Degenkolb (Trek Segafredo) were involved.
Cataldo suffered a broken wrist and was out of the tour.
Marcato, Backaert, Bodnar were 1-2-3 in the intermediate sprint, while for the big boys it was Kristoff, Matthews and Kittel.
Backaert scored the only point on the Category 4 mountain, Côte d'Aire-sur-l'Adour with 61km to go.
In another crash, Arthur Vichot (FDJ) was injured in the knee. Matthews, Colbrelli and Arashiro also went down with Vichot, the peloton slowed down and let the boys catch up.
Even Romain Bardet(Ag2R La Mondaile) was seen shaking his hand and on a new bike, and even though it wasn’t clear initially if he had crashed or not, it was later found out that he went down too.
Bodnar went solo with 28k to go leaving his “mates” Marcado and Backaert.
And then there, guess what? Another crash!
This time involving Alberto Contador and Michael Gogl(Trek Segafredo). Gogl appeared pretty injured. Jarlinson Pantano waited for Contador and then rode with him to catch the peloton but this crash seemed to have come at the wrong time, as the peloton was pushing the pace. But Pantano and Contador managed to rejoin the peloton.
It was funny how Contador’s mechanic when giving him a new bike, signalled him to get riding again. Let the old man have some peace!
Bodnar, who has been the long time right hand man for Peter Sagan but he himself is a brilliant rider, having won the Polish TT championships, was giving his all on the front, descending at 76-77 kmph keeping his 39 second lead with 10 km to go which went down to 22 with 5 to go.
Bodnar kept pushing and pushing and pushing, but with 200 meters to go Sabatini accelerated overtaking him, leading out Marcel Kittel.
Kittel again boxed in by Boasson-Hagen and Matthews, created yet another powerful sprint.
And took no.5 for the this Tour.
General classifications after Stage 11:
Jersey Wearers after Stage 11:
PS: Kittel said in his post race interview "When you're sprinting at this level, its like playing Tetris."