Young German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano) won the crash-affected bunch sprint at the end of the seventh stage of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana on Friday.
Thursday’s stage winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas) came second with Spanish stalwart Oscar Freire (Rabobank) in third. Kittel won four stages of the Tour of Poland earlier in August in what has been his breakthrough season.
A crash involving Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) halted all but a handful of sprinters, with several injured riders staying on the ground until medical assistance arrived.
Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) maintained the overall lead, with Daniel Moreno (Katusha in second place at 15 seconds and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) in third at 16 seconds.
The day’s action was largely led by a four-man escape group consisting of Steve Houanard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Antonio Cabelo (Andalucia Caja Granada), Luis Mate (Cofidis) and Julien Fouchard (Cofidis).
The quartet launched their attack shortly after the race left the neutralised zone in Almaden. Their time gap over the bunch peaked at around nine minutes, before the peloton leisurely started to reel in their advantage.
Team Sky took to the front of the bunch in the final 25km to wind up the pace, with Bradley Wiggins up near the front. The move by the British team momentarily split the bunch in the crosswinds.
Fouchard launched a solo bid with 13km to go as his three companions were absorbed by the peloton. Behind, a succession of sprinters’ teams took to the front to drive up the pace and Fouchard was caught with 7km to go.
Just as the sprinters were launching their final move to the line, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) touched the wheel of Michal Golas (Vacansoleil). Both riders hit the floor, bringing the peloton to a halt. Michele Scarponi (Lampre) was one of those caught up in the crash and landed heavily on his shoulder.
Kittel had already opened up his sprint and reached the line unchallenged to take his first grand tour win.
Britain’s Ian Stannard (Sky) finished in 12th spot. Wiggins avoided the crash to come home in 55th place and keep his 22nd spot overall. All riders were awarded the same time as the crash occurred in the final 3km.
On Saturday, the riders face a mountainous stage from Talavera de la Reina to San Lorenzo de El Escorial covering 177.3km and including three categorised climbs. The final uphill kilometre will favour attacking riders such as Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
Vuelta a Espana 2011, stage seven: Almadén to Talavera de la Reina, 182.9km
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Skil-Shimano in 4-47-59
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
4. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek
5. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
6. Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank
7. Tom Veelers (Ned) Skil-Shimano
8. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
9. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
10. Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Highroad all same time
12. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at same time
25. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at same time
55. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at same time
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
2. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 15 secs
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 16 secs
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 23 secs
5. Jakob Fuglslang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 25 secs
6. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana at 41 secs
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard-Trek at 44 secs
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 49 secs
9. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) Movistar both at 49 secs
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar at 52 secs
21. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky at 1-26
22. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 1-26
140. Ian Stannard (GB) Team Sky at 59-17
Marcel Kittel takes an emotional win
Sylvain Chavanel earns another day in red
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Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Stage reports
Stage six: Sagan takes Vuelta stage win in controversial circumstances
Stage five: Rodriguez takes second win for Katusha but Chavanel holds on
Stage four: Moreno wins first mountain skirmish at Sierra Nevada
Stage three: Lastras solos to stage and takes red jersey
Stage two: Sutton grabs stage win to set things right for Sky
Stage one: Leopard-Trek win opening TTT to put Fuglsang in front
Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide
Vuelta a Espana 2011: ITV4 TV schedule
Vuelta a Espana 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
ITV to show 2011 Vuelta