Etixx – Quick-Step had another successful season in 2016, with 56 road wins alongside 69 other podium places. Over the next weeks we will look back on the 10 biggest moments for the team; today, it's Marcel's great win at the Tour de France.
He grimaced and then punched in the air; the seconds after the finish turned into hours, so huge was the tension and the drama that surrounded the breathtaking finale, but it was all over the moment the race jury made the announcement: Marcel Kittel is the winner of Tour de France stage 4, the longest of the 103rd edition, which came down to less than a tyre's width after more than 235 kilometers.
The most successful rider of the year in the first part of the season, Kittel was determined at the start of the race to return to winning ways in the Grande Boucle and add another big victory to his already impressive CV, which included more than 70 wins since turning pro. To achieve this goal, the 28-year-old counted on a well-rounded Etixx – Quick-Step outfit, which controlled every single detail of the race on stage 4 of the Tour de France, where an uphill drag – averaging 6% over 600 meters – awaited at the finish.
Once the escape was nullified in the town of Limoges, the team moved to bring Marcel at the front, and after sailing his way through the peloton and finding an opening, he began his surge to the finish with around 250 meters to go; despite a strong sprint of Bryan Coquard and a tight shoulder-to-shoulder fight, he pipped the Frenchman on the line for his ninth Tour de France stage victory and the 14th Grand Tour win of his career, proving that he rediscovered the fast legs that made him one of the finest sprinters seen in the past decade.
"It's been almost six months since that victory, but it feels like it was yesterday. The ambitions and expectations were high and the pressure was there, especially after getting so many wins in the first part of the season. The boys did a marvelous job in Limoges. We were there when it mattered, I was brought up in the right position and had a perfect timing", said Marcel Kittel, who surpassed legendary countryman Rudi Altig in most Tour de France stage victories for Germany, sitting now in third overall in an all-time ranking, with nine successes. "I was very emotional after that victory; it's hard to explain in words, but it meant a lot to me to return to the Tour de France with such a victory, it was an important day for me and my career and it made me really happy and proud."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele