BERGERAC, France (Reuters) - German Marcel Kittel claimed his fourth victory in this year’s Tour de France when he powered to an impressive Stage 10 win in a bunch sprint on Tuesday as Briton Chris Froome retained the overall lead.
Kittel’s compatriot John Degenkolb was second and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen took third place with Froome finishing safe in the bunch to keep the yellow jersey.
“It was a quiet day, no stress at all,” said Froome, who like the other riders enjoyed a rest day on Monday.
“It was one of the most relaxed days we’ve had in this Tour de France. It was like having a double rest day,” he added.
“Now it’s about saving energy for the Pyrenees and the Alps,” added the Team Sky rider, who will on Wednesday spend his 50th day in yellow to match the great Jacques Anquetil’s mark.
The record is held by Belgian Eddy Merckx with 96 days in the leader’s jersey.
Sky are on course to become the first team since Merckx’s Faemino-Faema in 1970 to hold the coveted jersey throughout the race.
Elie Gesbert, who on Monday almost set his Fortuneo-Oscaro team hotel on fire after leaving a towel on an electric heater to trigger a partial evacuation of the building, jumped away at the start.
He was accompanied by fellow Frenchman Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and the duo built a maximum advantage of 5:30.
The sprinters’ teams, however, had them on a tight leash and they were reined in 6.8km from the line.
None of his rivals could match Kittel’s power as the Quick-Step Floors rider beat Degenkolb by more than a bike length to extend his lead in the points classification.
It was Kittel’s 13th Tour stage win, taking him one ahead of Erik Zabel’s German record of 12.
“I don’t see cycling from that position. It’s not about being a VIP or part of history,” Kittel said.
“I just do what I can do best, which is sprinting. I‘m enjoying this huge event together with my team mates. We trust each other, and this is very special, very important to me.”
Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni was handed a one-minute penalty and a 200 Swiss Francs ($207.58) fine for shoving away a Quick-Step Floors rider who had just elbowed him.
($1 = 0.9635 Swiss francs)
Editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar