BERGERAC, France (AP) — Marcel Kittel won the 10th stage of the Tour de France with remarkable ease on Tuesday, while Chris Froome stayed safely in the main pack to retain the race leader’s yellow jersey.
A sprint specialist, Kittel perfectly timed his effort in the final straight to post his fourth stage win since the start of the race, crossing the line ahead of fellow German John Degenkolb.
The stage took the peloton on a flat, 178-kilometer (111-mile) run from Perigueux to Bergerac in southwestern France.
Froome, the three-time Tour champion, will be wearing the yellow jersey for the 50th time on Wednesday. He will join five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil in fourth place on the all-time list of riders’ days in yellow – behind Eddy Merckx (96), Bernard Hinault (75), and Miguel Indurain (60).
“A huge, huge honor,” Froome said about the 50 days in yellow.
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Kittel was in 10th place after negotiating the two sharp corners of the technical final kilometer and used his impressive power to surge ahead his rivals with 150 meters left to secure his 13th career win on the Tour.
He won by a bike’s length and had plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line.
Kittel said his confidence is sky high after his string of victories.
“I know now from the last sprints that I can hold that speed to the finish line,” he said. “I almost cannot believe what’s happening here at the Tour.”
Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen completed the podium in the medieval town.
With Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare out of the race, Kittel strengthened his grip on the best sprinter’s green jersey. French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, who had to settle for a sixth-place finish, acknowledged Kittel’s superiority.
“Kittel was the strongest, he came from behind,” Bouhanni said. “He won four sprints out of five, he is the best sprinter of this Tour.”
After a plane journey across France and a rest day for the riders, the race resumed in Perigueux for a flat ride through the lush landscapes of the Dordogne province in southwestern France.
Following a hectic stage in the Jura on Sunday and with two hard stages in the Pyrenees mountains later this week, Froome and his main rivals were happy to let two French riders with no ambitions for the overall race lead escape from the pack.
Yoann Offredo went on his own immediately after the race director waved the flag to signal the start. He was joined soon afterward by Elie Gesbert, the youngest rider in the peloton at 22 years old, and the pair quickly opened a gap.
Their lead stabilized at about five minutes as the peloton moved past the Lascaux cave, a prehistoric World Heritage site featuring some superb hunting scenes. Second-place Fabio Aru was all smiles near Domme — a picturesque town perched on a breathtaking cliff above the Dordogne river — and shook hands with another rider at a pedestrian pace.
“We chatted, admired the countryside. It was very pleasant,” Warren Barguil said, summing up the day.
Toward the end, the sprinters’ teams organized the chase, reducing the deficit of the peloton to a little more than two minutes with 40 kilometers left. Offredo and Gesbert fought hard until the end but were hampered by a strong headwind and were caught seven kilometers from the finish.
There was no major change in the overall standings, with Aru still trailing 18 seconds behind Froome and Frenchman Romain Bardet in third place, 51 seconds back.
“It was a more quite day today, without wind, no stress,” Froome said. “I’m already thinking about the Pyrenees, it’s the next big goal, I’ll need to be ready.”
Stage 11 on Wednesday is a flat, 126-mile stage from Eymet to Pau in southwestern France toward the Pyrenees. NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 6:55 a.m. ET, with NBCSN coverage at 7:30.