By a whisker: German Marcel Kittel triumphs in another photo-finish at Tour de France
German Marcel Kittel pips Frenchman Bryan Coquard to grab the fourth stage; Peter Sagan finishes third to extend his overall lead
For the second day in a row a photo-finish decided the stage winner at the Tour de France, with Marcel Kittel coming up trumps on Tuesday.
The burly German held off a charging Bryan Coquard to win by barely a centimetre, 24 hours after Mark Cavendish pipped Andre Greipel by no more than an inch.
It was a stunning finish again on a slight incline but heartbreak for Frenchman Coquard, who had already expressed his disappointment after coming third on Monday.
Peter Sagan finished third to take a time bonus on the line and extend his overall lead over Julian Alaphilippe to 12 seconds, with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde third at 14sec.
“I’m very emotional. It feels like my first stage win again,” said Kittel.
“I’m very happy and proud because the team was fighting for this win. To win a stage like this – I can’t believe it.”
After the drab procession of Monday’s stage, the peloton returned to racing on Tuesday in the longest stage of the race at 237.5km.
Although they rode 14km more than the previous day, they did it half an hour quicker.
Kittel cut an emotional figure at the end as he achieved his first Tour stage win since succeeding on the Champs Elysees in Paris in the final stage of the 2014 edition, only to miss the race altogether last year.
He and Coquard touched shoulders twice in the final sprint but their battle was fair and the big Etixx rider held firm.
On Monday, Cavendish had overhauled another broad-shouldered German in Greipel by launching his bike for the line.
And although Coquard tried the same trick, Kittel just had the power to resist.
Sagan, who won Sunday’s second stage, not only held onto his yellow jersey but also took the sprinters’ green points jersey back off Cavendish, who had won the first and third stages.