German rider Marcel Kittel claimed a record-equaling third consecutive Grand Prix de l’Escaut title on Wednesday.
Kittel was favorite in the absence of Britain’s Mark Cavendish (flu) and Germany’s Andre Greipel (broken collarbone) in a race held on a flat course in the Flanders countryside and ideal for sprinters.
The Giant rider finished ahead of Tyler Farrar of the US and Dutchman Danny van Poppel at Schoten, to equal previous treble winners Cavendish and Belgian Petrus Oellibrandt.
“Marcel is on another planet,” Van Poppel said. “When I saw him accelerate, I knew straight away I wasn’t sprinting to victory. He’s unstoppable, so I’m satisfied with my third place.”
Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi had tried to outwit the German by starting the sprint about 400m from the line, but ran out of energy and slumped to fourth place.
“Everything was perfectly clear in my head — I had to take the lead 250m from the line,” Kittel said after his fifth win of the season. “I knew that by taking a lead of several meters I couldn’t be caught.”
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, winner of the Tour des Flandres last weekend and favorite for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, failed to feature, while his Belgian rival Tom Boonen worked mainly for Petacchi in the final kilometers.
VUELTA CICLISTA AL PAIS VASCO
AP, VITORIA, Spain
Alberto Contador maintained his overall grip on the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco on Wednesday, while Australian cyclist Michael Matthews won the long third stage in northern Spain.
Matthews took advantage of smart work by his Orica-GreenEdge team to beat Kevin Reza of Europcar and Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Matthews covered the 194.7km in 5 hours, 2 minutes, 9 seconds.
Contador stayed with the peloton to maintain his 14-second lead over fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s Contador has an overall time of 12.54:03.
The five-stage race could have been all but decided yesterday, with a summit finish closing a difficult fourth stage featuring five categorized climbs.
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