Germany's Marcel Kittel (left) crosses the finish line ahead of second-placed Dylan Groenewegen of the Netherlands to win the 11th stage of the Tour de France.
Germany's Marcel Kittel (left) crosses the finish line ahead of second-placed Dylan Groenewegen of the Netherlands to win the 11th stage of the Tour de France. Peter Dejong

VIDEO: Kittel leaves sprint rivals in his wake ... again

MARCEL Kittel is now toying with his sprint rivals after the hulking German steamrolled his way to a fifth stage win from 11 starts.

Kittel's searing acceleration again proved too much at the end of the crash-plagued 203.5km run from Eymet, flying past Dylan Groenewegen and Edvald Boasson Hagen to strike what is become a familiar winning salute.

Australian Michael Matthews appeared well placed to challenge, but had to settle for fourth after he was cut-off by Boasson Hagen just as he was about to jump.

Kittel compared another day of domination to playing video games.

"It's incredible because ... you know sometimes when you're on your top level in the sprints, it's like playing Tetris," Kittel said.

"The last games I've always got the right gaps. I never made a mistake, all the lines were perfect.

"I could today again jump from wheel to wheel. It's incredible, I'm so happy."

Kittel's command of this year's Tour de France sprint stages is now approaching record levels.

The Quick-Step Floors powerhouse has now won the most stages in a single Tour since Mark Cavendish in 2011.

With this year's course a sprinter's paradise and more opportunities on the horizon, Kittel is also closing on the all-time record haul of eight stage wins.

Matthews' fourth was a vast improvement on a disastrous 13th in stage 10. But while he was encouraged, he was also left wondering what might have been after his path to the line was blocked.

 

Germany's Marcel Kittel, wearing the green jersey, Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Germany's Christian Knees ride in the pack during the 11th stage of the Tour de France.
Germany's Marcel Kittel, wearing the green jersey, Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Germany's Christian Knees ride in the pack during the 11th stage of the Tour de France. Christophe Ena

"I was talking to 'Eddy' (Boasson Hagen) after the finish and I was like 'what was that?' and he said 'oh yeah, I thought you were coming and I didn't see anyone else'," Matthews said.

"I think we were in the middle of the road at the time so I thought either way I can try and jump. Unfortunately he was able to close me on the right side.

"But it went okay today actually. We had a big chat last night about what we wanted to do and we did that.

"I had a little crash on the climb after the intermediate sprint. It started to get stressful because everyone thought there was going to be crosswinds over the top of the climb and (Thibaut) Pinot just came sideways at me and totally took me out. I was lucky not to go down too bad."

Matthews' crash was one of several on a nervous day in the peloton. Italian Dario Cataldo abandoned with a wrist injury, while his Astana leader Jakob Fuglsang suffered the same problem, but battled to the finish.

Romain Bardet and Alberto Contador, the latter finishing with blood-smeared handlebars, came down in separate incidents and were forced to chase back on.

Adventurous escapee Maciej Bodnar, who left his breakaway companions behind with 23km to go, fell 500m short of a fairytale win when he was swallowed up by a surging peloton.

Chris Froome holds an 18-second lead over Italian Fabio Aru on general classification, with the Tour set to enter the Pyrenees for Thursday's stage 12.

Froome hinted that attack might be the best form of defence as he looks to secure a fourth Tour crown.

"I don't think we want to let anyone come back on to GC (general classification)," Froome said.

"We're really going to want to control things from the start and not allow any of the GC guys who've lost time already to come back into the game."

News Corp Australia

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