24 hours after Peter Sagan
won his maiden Grand Tour stage, Germany's Marcel Kittel announced his arrival
as one of the peloton's fastest new sprinters with an emphatic win in Spain.
Kittel, a 23-year-old German with
thighs so thunderous even pop singer Beyonce would be jealous, was in a league
of his own as he skittled through his rivals to take the biggest win of his
career in Talavera de la Reina.
Given that Friday's stage seven
presented the peloton with the first chance of a flat finish in this year's
Vuelta, that's quite a return for the Skil Shimano starlet: victory at the
first possible occasion. Not bad for a former U23 time trial specialist.
It's a shame that both Kittel and
Sagan's first Grand Tour victories may well play second fiddle to surrounding
On Thursday, Sagan's win was rather
subdued after the confusion between his Liquigas team-mates Vincenzo Nibali and
Valerio Agnoli; and on Friday, it was the huge pile-up involving Tyler Farrar
and a whole host of GC favourites that will take the headlines.
But in truth, both Sagan and Kittel
were by far the strongest men on both days. In Talavera de la Reina, Kittel was
already well on his way to securing Skil's first Grand Tour win in the six
years since their inception.
In fact, you could even go as far as
to say that it was Kittel's crushing speed that caused the crash: Farrar,
clearly caught short in the closing 200m, was trying to latch onto the German's
wheel when he came across Vacansoleil's Mickal Golas and touched wheels. The
rest is road-crash history.
Fittingly, it was Sagan who took
second place to Kittel at the finish - two of cycling's "next
generation" proving that they're more than ready to mix it with the best.
Kittel now has 13 wins this season
while Sagan has 10, as well as two overall wins and four points classification
jerseys. Calling them ones for the future is hardly fair - for they're doing
the business right here, right now.
Just compare the illustrious duo to
the breakaway that formed on stage seven from kilometre-zero. Like both Sagan
and Kittel, each of the four escapees were competing in their first ever
But calling Friday's break
irrelevant would be an insult to irrelevance. The most interesting thing to
look out for during the 170-odd kilometres they rode out in front was Luis
Angel Mate's hair. Has no one told the Spaniard that the rat's tail cut went
out of fashion in the late 80s?
As one of Saddles' followers on
Twitter so commendably commented, Mate looked like "a Jedi extra in a
Russian adaptation of Star Wars - comrade Obi Wan in the Land of Mullets".
Back to Kittel and one final
comment: perhaps the most annoying thing about Mark Cavendish quitting this
year's Vuelta so early wasn't the fact that the Manxman missed out on the
chance to win stages in all three Grand Tours in the same year, but the fact that
we as spectators were denied the chance of seeing Kittel and Cav go head to
Having seen off the old guard
(Petacchi, Boonen, Freire etc) and having proved that he's far stronger than
his current rivals (Farrar, Feillu, Haussler etc), Cav's next challenge is to
stave off the next generation.
With Kittel having prolonged his
contract with Skil - a team not yet part of the World Tour - and Cav unlikely
to race the Vuelta again in a hurry, we may have to wait a couple of years
until we see this thrilling confrontation on a Grand Tour.
- Peter Sagan