Quick Step Floors’ Marcel Kittel stamped his sprinting mark with great authority again on stage 11 of the Tour de France on Wednesday. while Louis Meintjes held firm for South Africa in the general classification.
It was yet another day designed for the sprinters, although Poland’s Maciej Bodnar oh-so-nearly got away, being caught in the last 300m of the 203.5-kilometre ride from Eymet to Pau.
Africa’s Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka performed a great leadout for Edvald Boasson Hagen, who did well to make podium as he sprinted to third place.
The early break got away right from the beginning of the day again. This time, three riders decided to take on the peloton, which didn’t seem too concerned about the situation.
As the riders took on the last 20 km, Bodnar attacked and went solo. This effort had the gap on the peloton increase instantly and it took a while before the teams of the sprinters reacted. With just a couple of kilometers left to go, Bodnar still enjoyed a small gap on the pack. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka then went to the front through Scott Thwaite to set the pace, and ultimately Bodnar got caught barely 300m from the finishing line.
Norway’s Boasson Hagen was the first of the sprinters to launch his sprint, charging towards the line on the right side of the road, but despite an impressive effort, he had to see Kittel overtake him and win the stage.
It was Boasson Hagen’s second podium of the tour this year as Team Sky kept the yellow jersey.
UAE Team Emirates’ Meintjes stays 11th in the overall standings, 5min behind Froome, with Orica-Scott’s Daryll Impey, who did some hard work on Wednesday’s stage, next-best South African in 71st (+55min 44sec). The Dimension Data duo of Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Jaco Venter are 139th (1:21:22) and 176th (+1:43.30) of the 179 riders left on the road.
Meintjes maintains his second spot on the Young Riders rankings list, 2:58 down on Orica-Scott’s Simon Yates, while Team Dimension Data are last of the 22 teams on the road, 2:20:18 down on Team Sky.
Now, after two flat and sprinter-friendly stages, the Tour starts to turn nasty.
Thursday’s stage is 214.5km between Pau (the gateway to the Pyrenees) and Peyragudes. A series of four climbs will shake things up, before the Peyresourde and Peyragudes climbs see a summit finish.