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Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 4; Le Touquet – Paris-Plage, 164 km. Marcel Kittel goes 3 from 4

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Marcel KittelI didn’t think Kristoff was as ultimately fast as that; I knew he’s a beast of a boy but didn’t think that a straight sprinters’ stage was tough enough for him – but he nearly proved me wrong in Lille at the end of Stage Four, finishing behind Marcel Kittel.

The wily Paolini and strong-as-a-bear Russian Champion Alex Porsev dragged the Katusha Norwegian through the chaos and gave him a clear run – but Kittel was just too strong, again.

His Giant boys committed early at 25 K to go and were pretty much done by the red kite after QuickStep had dominated the run in.

But Mark Renshaw couldn’t repeat yesterday’s podium spot, despite being right where he should be in the finale.

It was good to say Demare up there – inspired by pedalling across home roads, no doubt.

VV first came across him when he won the U23 Worlds in Copenhagen in 2011 when he won in fine style with Britain’s Andy Fenn in the bronze slot.

Marcel Kittel
Demare can’t believe he’s the World Champion. Photo©Ed Hood

What we didn’t realise than was that Demare had already won stages in the Tour de l’Abitibi in Canada in 2008 – the race is regarded as the ‘junior Tour de France’ and the likes of Taylor Phinney and Tyler Farrar are on the role of honour.

And in 2009 he was second in the Junior World Road Race Championship behind Belgium’s Jasper Stuyven who’s now a pro with Trek.

He was fifth in the U23 Worlds in Geelong in 2010 before hitting the jackpot in Copenhagen in 2011.

His pro career has been spectacular; in his first cash season he won stages in Qatar, De Panne and the Route de Sud as well as Le Samyn, GP Cholet and Hamburg.

Last year he won the GP Denain, three stages and the GC in Dunkerque, a stage in the Tour de Suisse, the GP Isbergue and was on the podium in Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours.

This year he won two stages and the GC in Dunkerque, two stages and the GC in Picardie, Halle-Ingooigem and the National Championship as well as taking second spot in Gent-Wevelgem to Degenkolb.

In other words; ‘the boy can sprint.’

Marcel Kittel
Kittel takes his third stage from four, and Kristoff shows his frustration. Photo©NTB

But Kittel is on a different level; we only realised recently that he’s blessed with the best thing an athlete can have – good genes.

His father, Matthias was his role model, with the team website telling us:

“Inspired by his father to pick up cycling, Marcel first started out riding on a mountain bike. He always wanted to ride on the road, though, so it wasn’t long until he made the switch.

“He rode his first few kilometres with his father, and, even after many years and many more wins, he still sees his father as his role model. Marcel’s father guided him and taught him what is important in cycling.

“When he moved to the sports school in Erfurt, where his father and mother were also athletes – and now his brother as well – he knew he wanted to become a professional cyclist.”

Kittel senior raced for the GDR (German Democratic Republic) team in the early 80’s with stage wins in the Tour of Poland among his palmarés.

Stage Six from Arras to Reims will be Kittel Junior’s next chance to equal his 2013 performance of four Tour stage wins.

And a final word on the man with the quiff; it’s his beaming Stage One winning visage which graces the cover of Sunday’s L’Équipe – which we tracked down without too much fuss on Tuesday.

Marcel Kittel
L’Équipe’s cover from last Sunday. Photo©Ed Hood

The esteemed journal awards Yorkshire 10/10; Cancellara 8/10 for trying to spoil the sprinters’ party and Peter Sagan 0/10 for not committing any treasonable act upon Kate Middleton.

Ah! those French and their sense of humour…

On a more serious note, Chris Froome’s early crash showed how fine the line is between happily floating along in the bunch and ending up in hospital, with the 2013 Tour champion hitting the tar early in the day.

Criticism has been levelled at Contador for working his team too hard to keep him ‘up front’ in the finales – but Froome’s encounter with the tar perhaps explains Alberto’s anxiousness not to be caught out.

That said, Lotto’s Greg Henderson was leading the race when he came down on a roundabout, taking two team mates with him.

Marcel Kittel
Henderson will have surgery on his injured knee but his Commonwealth Games start is in doubt. Photo©sport.msn.co.nz

A bad cut to his knee means he’s out and with Greipel’s failure to shine, Lotto’s bad luck continues – let’s hope it’s all used up, now and Van Den Broeck can show his mettle come the mountains.

Wednesday’s Stage Five sees sprint finish madness exchanged for cobbled madness with a 90% plus probability of rain.

Cancellara is off the leash – with Trek having no credible podium contender that’s no surprise and Terpstra has a reputation to defend, but QuickStep have ‘coming GC man’ Michal Kwiatkowski to worry about so it can’t be, ‘all for Niki.’

VeloVeritas predicts Kristoff to win and just hopes that no one is hurt too badly in the inevitable crashes.

Meanwhile I have to fight my way through the tourists up Edinburgh’s High Street to get L’Équipe – and with no lead out men to protect me…

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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