Marcel Kittel sprints to Stage 11 victory

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    German rider Marcel Kittel claimed the 11th stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish, taking his tally to five stage wins since the start of the race.

    The Quick-Step Floors rider, who now has 14 stages to his name overall, left it late to launch his sprint but easily beat Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).

    Australia’s Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) finished the stage in fourth and is second overall in the race for the green jersey.

    Matthews appeared slightly cluttered for room in the final sprint to the line.

    Ahead of two hard days in the Pyrenees mountains, Chris Froome finished in the main pack to retain the race leader’s yellow jersey by 18 seconds over Fabio Aru.

    Some of their main rivals for the yellow jersey endured a tough day on the road.

    Three of the main contenders crashed as last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet, third overall, Jakob Fuglsang (fifth) and twice winner Alberto Contador (12th) hit the deck in separate incidents.

    Fuglsang was involved in a crash at the feed zone and went to the medical car to have his wrist checked while his Astana teammate Dario Cataldo was forced to abandon because of a wrist injury after the Italian also fell.

    “He was a key rider. He would have had an important role in the mountains,” said Astana sports director Dmitry Fofonov.

    “We have to decide if he undergoes operation in France or in Italy. As for Fuglsang, he already broke the wrist that’s injured today. It hurts, he said.”

    Frenchman Bardet avoided serious injury.

    “I escaped unhurt but now I’m happy that the flat stages are over,” said Bardet, who is expected to attack in Thursday’s 12th stage, a 214.5km trek featuring three major climbs and a summit finish in Peyragudes.

    Contador, who slipped down the general classification after a bad day in the Jura mountains on Sunday, fell off his bike 25km from the finish but managed to make it back to the peloton with the help of his Trek-Segafredo teammate Jarlinson Pantano.

    At that point, the main pack was travelling at full speed as the sprinters’ teams rode hard at the front to catch the last fugitive of the day, Maciej Bodnar of Poland.

    The exhausted Bora-Hansgrohe rider was reined in 250 metres from the line before Kittel stole the show yet again.

    © AP 2017