Marcel Kittel continued to prove he is the man to beat at this year’s Tour de France with a third win in the first four stages yesterday.
The Giant-Shimano rider looks untouchable in the sprints but it was a day dominated by a crash and its potential repercussions for defending champion Chris Froome, as the race returned to its natural French surroundings.
Froome’s tumble was the early drama on the 163.5km stage from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille.
The problem occurred when wheels touched in the peloton and Froome crashed on to the left side he damaged during June’s Criterium du Dauphine, suffering torn shorts, a grazed left hip and a sore wrist.
He quickly found his feet and was taken back to the peloton by team-mates Bernhard Eisel and David Lopez following an assessment by the race doctor.
Froome eventually finished 42nd on the stage, slipping from fifth to seventh overall – behind Alberto Contador though still only two seconds behind yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali – ahead of a challenging fifth stage today which will commemorate 100 years since the start of The Great War.
The Team Sky leader has to protect a wrist injury on the 155.5km route from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hinaut which features nine cobbled sections totalling more than 15km. Forecast rain could also make life tough.
Yesterday’s finish was the most thrilling yet as Kittel, who won the race’s opening stage into Harrogate on Saturday, edged out Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) in a photo finish.
Hull hosts the 2014 British cycling national circuit race championships tonight.
Rotherham’s Russell Downing defends the title he won in York last year. Former podium finisher Ed Clancy races alongside Otley grand prix winner Adam Blythe.
The women’s race starts at 6.15pm with the men’s race at 8.15pm.