On Saturday, the race visited Villars-les-Dombes, in the Ain department.
As soon as the flag dropped at the start of stage 14 – last one for the sprinters in the second week – Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Jérémy Roy (FDJ) accelerated from the peloton and animated the day, opening a maximum advantage of five minutes, which helped them stay in the lead until the last five kilometers. That gap was controlled by the sprinters' teams, with Petr Vakoč taking some really long pulls and spending countless kilometers at the head of the peloton to make sure the stage will come down to the expected bunch gallop.
In the final two kilometers, Etixx – Quick-Step made its way to the front of the pack with four riders, who worked to bring Marcel Kittel in the best position for the sprint. Fabio Sabatini was the German's last man and once his job came to an end in the final 250 meters, Marcel launched his sprint, but was passed by Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who slightly changed his line once he took the front, and went on to win the stage, ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
Despite missing out on a tenth career win at the Tour de France, Marcel Kittel had words of praise for his teammates, who showed the Etixx – Quick-Step kit at the front right from the start of the stage and made sure of setting him up in a good position for the sprint: "First of all I want to say that my team did a really good job, controlling the race, bringing me to the final and leading me out. I'm very proud of that and I want to thank the guys. Unfortunately, we didn't get the result we wanted and I must admit I'm disappointed."
By far the most successful World Tour rider of the season in terms of victories, Marcel also wanted to clear the air and dismiss any talks of a polemic between him and Mark Cavendish following the finish in Villars-les-Dombes: "I started my sprint with around 220 meters to go; once I was at the front I saw Cavendish come by and as soon as he past me he went to the right. I had to brake and that was it. That move definitely influenced the result of today's stage, but it's not up to me to decide on this matter. I'm just disappointed of the outcome, because I had good sprinting legs."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele