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Tour de France: Marcel Kittel reclaims Tour lead in sprint finish

German wins the third stage in front of a packed London

Marcel Kittel’s Tour de France sprint supremacy continued yesterday as the German won stage three of the Tour de France on The Mall in London.

The 155-kilometre route from Cambridge was the third and final stage on British soil ahead of the race’s return to France and was always destined to end in a sprint finish.

The peloton raced near Mark Cavendish’s Essex home, but the partisan crowd were deprived of the 25-time stage winner’s presence by his withdrawal with a shoulder injury sustained on stage one in Harrogate.

Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won four stages to Cavendish’s two in the 2013 Tour and already has two wins from three stages a year on after triumphing on Saturday’s opening day and again in front of Buckingham Palace, where he once again proved he is the new sprint king.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was second, with Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammate Mark Renshaw third.

Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who assumed the yellow jersey by winning in Sheffield on day two, finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall lead.

After glorious weather in Yorkshire, the first rainfall of the race arrived after the riders had passed by the Olympic Park in east London.

The day’s breakaway pair — NetApp-Endura’s Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) — were swept up in the final 6km and Kittel’s Giant-Shimano squad led through Parliament Square and along Birdcage Walk.

Lotto-Belisol took to the front outside Buckingham Palace, but then Kittel’s squad took over once more and no-one could match the German’s power.

The events unfolded without serial winner Cavendish, who, for the first time since voluntarily exiting the 2008 Tour to prepare for the Beijing Olympics will not reach Paris, where the race concludes on July 27.

Peta Cavendish, the Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter’s wife, took to Twitter to state the Manxman had a hospital appointment, with an MRI scan required to determine if he would require surgery.

Last night the riders landed on French soil after flying on four chartered aeroplanes from London City Airport, with defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) relieved to have negotiated a tricky opening in fifth place after finishing 28th in London.

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