Tour de France

Kittel decries stage 14 sprint as unfair

Kittel says Cavendish swerved in front of him and forced him to brake in the sprint finale that closed out the Tour's 14th stage

VILLARS-LES-DOMBES, France (AFP) — Marcel Kittel (Etixx – Quick-Step) was none-too-pleased with the final moments of Saturday’s 14th stage of the Tour de France.

The German sprinter, who dominated the bunch finishes of the 2013 and 2014 Tours, was unhappy that his British rival Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) seemed to swerve in front of him in the finishing straight — but the race jury decided Cavendish had done nothing wrong.

“For sure right now I’m a bigger champion than Cav — I will not point the finger at him,” said the 28-year-old Etixx sprinter. “But his action influenced the result. Whatever I think is fair cannot be the same as the jury.”

Kittel was beaten into second by Cavendish on the opening and sixth stages but he did edge Direct Énergie’s Bryan Coquard in a photo finish to win stage 4.

On Saturday he finished fifth after sitting up to remonstrate after Cavendish crossed in front of him.

“I could have finished higher than fifth today,” he said.

“If you look at the road markings then it’s clear that he came out of my slipstream and turned to the right.

“I had to brake and swerve to avoid falling down.”

Cavendish unsurprisingly saw things differently.

“It’s him who came off the barriers more than anything,” insisted the 31-year-old Dimension Data rider.

Kittel was hugging the right-hand side of the course in the sprint finish as the road bore slightly round to the right. Cavendish launched his sprint from Kittel’s slipstream as the German started to drift away from the barriers.

As he got clear of Kittel, Cavendish did jerk slightly to his right, but there was room there for Kittel to move back towards the barriers.

Cavendish’s weave seemed to surprise Kittel, though, and he was forced to take evasive action.

By the time it happened, though, Cavendish believed he already had Kittel beaten.

“I knew Kittel would be left on the front quite soon into the headwind,” said the winner of 30 Tour stages since 2008. “So I knew I had to wait, wait, wait, and let him die and then come around.”

“I jumped around him and obviously it bent over to the right and he’s kicked off a little bit, but I was way past him by then.

“I don’t figure there’s anything wrong there. I think he was just frustrated.”