Sprinters set for high-speed race

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iol spt pic Marcel Kittel REUTERS The pack of riders, including Team Giant-Shimano rider Marcel Kittel of Germany, cycles on its way during the second 201km stage of the Tour de France from York to Sheffield. Picture: Christian Hartmann

Sheffield - Sprinters Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel will be relishing Monday's third stage of the Tour de France, which is expected to finish in a bunch dash to the line by Buckingham Palace.

Following Sunday's gruelling 201km, five-hour hilly stage from York to Sheffield, Monday's run is going to seem like a breeze.

The almost entirely flat stage from Cambridge to London is much shorter at just 155km and is almost certain to end in a bunch sprint.

But that means the sprinters' teams will likely maintain a high pace throughout and ensure no breakaway is allowed too far down the road.

Having finished outside the top 10 in Saturday's sprint finish after being impeded by the crash that brought down Mark Cavendish, and having trailed home 20 minutes behind winner Vincenzo Nibali on Sunday's stage, described by some as a mini version of the Spring Classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, Greipel said he was ready for action on Monday.

The German Lotto rider wrote on Twitter: “I always said I never want to do Liege-Bastogne-Liege but 2day I did kind of that in 2nd stage of (at)letour just 1thing-no restday 2mrw!”

Kittel's Giant-Shimano teammate and German compatriot John Degenkolb explained what their tactics would be on Monday.

“The goal will be to have a controllable break so we don't have to spend too much energy before the final,” he said.

“At the finish we have to race like we did before and in a smart way. Communicating and timing is important and I am confident we can repeat (Saturday's victory).”

Despite the tough nature of Sunday's stage and losing touch with the peloton more than 60km from the finish on the tough 4.7km long, seven percent average gradient second category Holme Moss climb, Kittel enjoyed his day in yellow, the second year in a row he had worn the leader's jersey following victory on the opening stage.

“Despite 3 000 altitude metres I had a good time on the bike,” he said.

“The fans were incredible, there are no words for that and it was an awesome day.

“I was in front and there were so many people I just yelled at them to tell them to be even louder, pretending like I couldn't hear them - I thought I lost my hearing.”

The size of the crowds and their uncontrolled enthusiasm has been a feature of the first two days of the Tour in Yorkshire.

While many riders have spoken, like Kittel, of their pleasure at riding past such fans, many have also pleaded with supporters to be more careful.

Overall contender Alberto Contador is one who looks ready to leave the British Isles and return to the relative tranquillity of French crowds.

“There were thousands of people, it's great but it's also dangerous when you go downhill at 90km/h or across villages with stray dogs,” he said after Sunday's stage.

“I'm glad I didn't crash because I was not so lucky in recent years.”

Nibali will likely hold onto the leader's yellow jersey for the next few days unless a breakaway can stay clear.

The 29-year-old Sicilian, who has previously won the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, spoke of his delight in adding a yellow jersey to his collection.

Sunday's success was his first stage win on the Tour and Monday will be the first time he rides wearing the yellow jersey.

“Having managed to win the pink jersey (of the Giro) and the Vuelta and now to wear this one, I don't think many people apart from Alberto Contador have worn all three,” he said.

“It's emotional to be wearing this jersey on my back. I don't know what to say but the joy is from my home to the stars,” he added after the jersey presentation in Sheffield.

Sapa-AFP


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