The Tour de France: Iconic, brutal, beautiful.

Photo Gallery: 2017 Tour de France, Stage 11

by Evan Hartig

German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) took his fifth stage win of the 2017 Tour de France on Stage 11 in Pau. Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto NL-Jumbo) was second after a late push, with Dimension Data’s Edvald Boasson Hagen in third. Breakaway remnant Macej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) wasn’t reeled in until the final 400 meters after a bold solo move 25 kilometers out from the finish.

The peloton once again lined up for a sprinter’s stage on Wednesday, embarking on a flat 203 kilometer jaunt from Eymet to Pau, “the Gateway to the Pyrenees.” The impending mountain stages meant Stage 11 would be another attempt at rest for the GC men.

Despite the headwind, the men of the breakaway again made an attempt at stage glory. Like Stages 3 and 6, Frederik Backaert of Wanty-Groupe Gobert was involved as an instigator. Joining him was Marco Marcato (UAE Team Emirates) and Macej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe), and their gap rose immediately, edging close to five minutes before Quick-Step Floors’ unwavering diesel Julien Vermote once again took the front of the peloton to monitor the gap. Members of Lotto-Soudal and Katusha also aided the chase.

Forty kilometers to go saw the breakaway’s gap dip under 1:00 after a diligent chase at the front of the peloton. It looked to be an early end to their efforts, but they continued for ten more kilometers, the gap falling to just under 40 seconds. Bodnar wasn’t ready for his day to conclude, however, attacking Marcato and Backaert 27 kilometers out. A multi-time Polish national time trial champion, Bodnar immediately assumed an aerodynamic tuck and distanced his fatigued breakaway partners, who were quickly absorbed by the peloton.

For a bit it appeared as if Bodnar was going to survive, but at 250 meters, he was absorbed by the charging sprint.

Kittel appeared to be too far back, but as the sprint was launched and gaps began opening, he turned on the afterburners, moved around the outside of the scrum with Groenewegen in tow, and overcame everyone for the win. Boasson Hagen, passed with 10 meters remaining, punched his bars frustratingly, as Kittel raised his right hand, five fingers outstretched.

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