Harrogate, England, United Kingdom (4E Sports) – Just like last year, Marcel Kittel of Germany ruled the opening stage of the Tour de France from Leeds to Harrogate Saturday.
Kittel, who won four stages last year, finished the 190.50-kilometer route in four hours, 44 minutes and seven seconds.
Peter Sagan placed second while Ramunus Navardauskas was third. Defending champion Chris Froome finished sixth.
“It was so hard! The hill in the last kilometer made it very difficult to win. There were so many people that we rode the finale like in a tunnel with a terrible noise. It’s unbelievable that I win stage 1 again,” Kittel said.
“I had good legs today and my guys did an excellent job. Our plan was to control the race with the other sprinters’ teams. This yellow jersey is for my team-mates. They were completely dedicated to that one goal,” he added.
Favorite Mark Cavendish’s hopes of taking the yellow jersey in the opening stage were dashed after he was involved in nasty crash 300 meters before the finish in Harrogate, taking Simon Gerrans down with him.
Tour de France rookie Benoit Jarrier of Bretagne-Séché Environnement) was the first attacker of the 101st edition as he went away from the gun after the ribbon cutting ceremony honored by the Duchess of Cambridge along with her husband Prince William at the Harewood House.
Jens Voigt of Trek Factory Racing, the oldest rider in the competition, made his move and was accompanied by Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) to make it a leading trio that wasn’t chased down by the peloton.
England hosts the first three stages of this 101st Tour de France before riders enter France on Tuesday. Sunday’s second stage is a 201-kilometer ride from York to Sheffield.