LIEGE, Belgium (AP) — The thriving present state of German biking stood out in sharp distinction to the game’s soiled previous throughout the second stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.
As Marcel Kittel rode towards a commanding dash victory to conclude a leg that started earlier than massive crowds in Duesseldorf, Germany, disgraced 1997 champion Jan Ullrich stood by the street as an uninvited spectator.
“It makes me actually, actually proud to see that this sport is now effectively accepted once more in my house nation,” Kittel mentioned. “There was positively a time the place not so many spectators had been standing subsequent to the street. And people who had been there have been exhibiting indicators with EPO syringes or different (stuff).”
With none teammates within the last 500 meters (yards) of a principally flat stage concluding in Liege, Kittel correctly stayed on his rivals’ wheels earlier than bursting forward on the last second for his 10th profession stage win within the Tour.
In the meantime, three-time champion Chris Froome needed to work onerous to meet up with the principle pack after falling to the pavement amid a mass crash on a moist nook.
Froome’s Sky teammate Geraint Thomas held on to the chief’s yellow jersey.
Froome was close to the entrance of the peloton when a Katusha rider forward of him misplaced management coming round a pointy flip with about 30 kilometers (20 miles) to go. The domino response additionally took down final yr’s runner-up, Romain Bardet.
Froome’s shorts and a number of other layers of pores and skin had been torn and he needed to change bikes as three teammates paced him again to the peloton.
“I’ve no accidents fortunately. I’ve simply misplaced somewhat little bit of pores and skin on my bottom,” Froome mentioned. “That is the character of the race. We knew it was slippery circumstances and each time you set the race numbers on there is a large threat one thing may occur.
“Somebody slid only a few wheels forward of me and at these speeds you simply cannot keep away from it,” Froome added. “Just a few of us went down however fortunately everyone seems to be OK and we acquired to the end alright with out shedding any time to our rivals. That is the principle factor.”
Having received the opening time trial Saturday, Thomas remained 5 seconds forward of Swiss rider Stefan Kueng within the total standings.
With a 10-second bonus, Kittel moved as much as third total, six seconds behind Thomas.
Froome is sixth, 12 seconds behind.
“It was nerve-racking. You type of neglect what the Tour is like,” Thomas mentioned. “The climate did not assist issues in any respect.”
Within the dash, Arnaud Demare of France completed second and Andre Greipel of Germany crossed third in a banner day for Germany.
A day like this may have been unthinkable only a few years in the past when German TV stopped broadcasting the Tour due to a sequence of doping scandals.
Ullrich was suspended in 2006 within the fallout from the Operation Puerto blood-doping scandal in Spain and he retired a yr later. There have been additionally scandals involving distinguished German riders like Patrick Sinkewitz and Stefan Schumacher. Even Erik Zabel, the favored rider who nonetheless holds the document of six inexperienced jerseys within the Tour’s factors classification, admitted to doping after he retired.
Today, a brand new technology of German riders led by Kittel and Greipel — who’ve received 21 Tour phases between them — plus four-time time trial world champion Tony Martin and classics specialist John Degenkolb, have drawn German followers again.
The Tour of Germany, which was canceled in 2009, is slated to return subsequent yr.
Whereas Kittel and different Germany riders had campaigned for Ullrich to be invited by Tour organizers to Duesseldorf, race organizers refused.
So Ullrich confirmed up on his personal account as an alternative in Korschenbroich, a city alongside the stage route.
“The picture of biking and likewise the best way individuals see it now has modified. They perceive it is a sport that had a really powerful time, a really large downside with doping,” Kittel mentioned. “In addition they, I believe, perceive that it is a sport that at all times has to concentrate to this heritage and that we’re actively making an attempt to work on it.”
As Kittel rode by way of Duesseldorf, he was near shedding tears over the fan turnout.
“It was a extremely touching second,” he mentioned. “And a reminiscence that I’ll always remember.”
There have been extra feelings on the end, when Kittel dropped to the bottom and began crying.
“It was an enormous aim to begin in Germany and win on the finish of that stage,” he mentioned.
The Tour stays in Belgium for the beginning of Stage three on Monday, a 212.5-kilometer (132-mile) leg from Verviers to Longwy, France, that passes by way of Luxembourg. The rolling leg options three fourth-category climbs and two third-category climbs, together with one on the end. It ought to arrange effectively for punchy riders like Verviers native Philippe Gilbert.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf
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