Marcel Kittel surged from a bunch sprint to win the second stage of the Tour de France on Sunday (2 July) as tournament favourite Chris Froome managed to finish after recovering from a major crash involving several General Classification hopefuls in Liege.
Kittel broke down in tears after finishing the 203.5km stage with a hectic sprint for the line. The Quick-Step Floors managed to hold off Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan to secure the 10th stage win of his Tour de France career, and the trio were followed closely by Mark Cavendish who remarkably finished fourth despite suffering from glandular fever in the build-up to the tour.
"I don't know what to say," Kittel said. "I'm super happy that I got this victory today. It was an incredible start in Germany. So many people. And for me, it would be wrong to say I had no pressure, it all comes out now and I really wanted to have this win. It was for me a big goal for me to start in Germany and win at the end of that stage.
"If we're honest and look to the plan, it didn't work at all. The good thing was I came pretty late, I could jump from the wheels. I just thought, OK, I need to take my own way, and I was just jumping from wheel to wheel and in the end I could go to the front, and I am super relieved."
Kittel was understandably elated but the same could not be said of Froome, who looked rather sullen as he boarded the Team Sky bus. The defending champion still holds sixth position heading into the third stage on Monday and was encouraged by the fact that his rivals did not take advantage of the nasty-looking crash, which involved another of the tour's main contenders, Romain Bardet, and opening stage winner Geraint Thomas.
Asked about his condition after the fall, Froome told ITV4: "No injury. I just lost a bit of skin on my backside. That's the nature of the race, in slippery conditions and at those speeds you can't avoid it. I'm so happy to get to the finish without losing any time to my rivals."
Kittel's impressive second stage victory was not enough to earn him the yellow jersey, which still belongs to Thomas. The Welshman, who finished alongside Froome in Liege, holds a five-second lead over Stefan Keung heading into the third stage, with Kittel just one second behind the BMC Racing rider in third.
"We were all in a decent position, but a few guys came past us pretty quickly and slid and we all just went down," Thomas said. "We got up pretty quickly though. Anything can happen and I wouldn't take anything for granted. Tomorrow is another day and we will be doing all we can for Froome."