Tour Story: Changing of the sprint guard
Marcel Kittel beats Mark Cavendish, Tour de France 2013, stage 12
Cycle Sport September brings you ten stories from the Tour de France. In his story, Ed Pickering looks at the battle of the sprinters. With André Greipel, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel all at the top of their game it was intriguing to watch.
As a symbol of how the Tour de France sprints were run off this year, the photograph of the finish line on the Champs Elysées at the end of the final stage is perfect. In the gloaming of a summer evening in Paris, three riders are spread across the road, backlit by bright floodlights.
In the centre, not confident enough to raise his arms (not for the first time in this Tour): Marcel Kittel, his head down. He's led the sprint from start to finish, and his lead was more at the start at the finishing straight than it was at the end, but he has done enough. He is the dominant sprinter of this year's Tour, with four stage wins - un Tour a la Cav.
On the right of the picture: André Greipel. Freeze-framed in his throw for the line, he didn't give up trying to overtake Kittel, and almost got him, but he is looking to his right, and forwards, at his conqueror, his body language betraying his defeat.
On the left of the picture: Mark Cavendish. He has his beaten face on. Enough said.
The general classification battle may have been more or less wrapped up after one mountain stage and one time trial, with the greatest suspense attached to the close race for second place, but the sprints in the 2013 Tour made it a vintage edition. It was the best Tour for pure sprinting that we have seen in a generation or more.....