Marcel Kittel tasted victory in Tour de France 2014 once more as he emerged triumphant in Stage 4 of the bicycling world's mega event.
The German, who rides for Giant-Shimano, won a tightly contested stage between Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Lille. Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr) provided stiff competition to him.
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) did not have his poistion affected as he retained his 2-second over lead over Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) was unfortunate to crash during Stage 4, and suffered many cuts and abrasions. Froome bravely carried on with his left wrist in a harness. Tour doctor Florence Pommerie was of the opinion that if his wrist is broken, it would be evident in the next 24 hours, and the cyclist may require further medical attention after Stage 5 on Wednesday, reported The Guardian.
As the final sprint began, Kittel and his final lead-out man Koen de Cort were without contact with teammates John Delenkomb and Roy Curvers. The two were cycling at full throttle as they went past the flame rouge. Then they realized their sprinter was nowhere to be seen and slowed down, reported CyclingQuotes.com.
This allowed Team Katusha to reduce the gap as they went ahead to the front with Alexander Porshev providing teammate Alexander Kristoff with a lead-out.
The indomitable Kittel, notwithstanding a tough run-in into the city of Lille, saw to it that his raw speed was enough to bring about victory. His calmness set him apart and held him in good stead, which was on view even when Kristoff emerged with a small gap within the last 200 metres.
Kittel held his nerve to ward off Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter Mark Renshaw and Krisstoff to ensure victory for himself in the fourth stage. The ace German cyclist has equalled his four stage wins from the previous edition of Tour de France.
"It was really fast and difficult to stay together with the team. In the end, the boys delivered me to the front.I was able to sit on the wheel of Renshaw, I was only thinking about the last corner. They told me at 250 meters I could see the finish line and I was almost tempted to go already at 500 because I couldn't see where I was. I had to sit down again. I went really long. It was everything I had, it was really difficult," Kittel said.
Team Sky's Froome's injury has caused some concern amongst other cyclists, and the ride ahead could prove to be a bumpy one.
"It's like riding on ice, especially with some of the corners as well. It'll be last man standing. We've been preparing for it all year but there is so much scope for something to go wrong it's frightening - somebody's race could be over in an instant," pointed out teammate Geriant Thomas.
Team Sky's principal Sir Dave Bailford appeared confident that the injury was nothing serious.
"Chris is all right. He felt fine and is good physically. We'd have preferred it if he hadn't crashed but we all know it is part and parcel of the rough and tumble of pro-bike racing," Bailford said.