|Tour de France: 1-23 July|
|Coverage: Live text commentary of every stage on the BBC Sport website. BBC Radio coverage on 5 live sports extra and/or website from 14:30 BST on every stage.|
Marcel Kittel won his fifth stage of this year’s Tour de France with victory on stage 11, as Britain’s Chris Froome retained the leader’s yellow jersey.
Poland’s Maciej Bodnar was caught in the final 300 metres in Pau, having led for the rest of the 203.5km route.
German Kittel surged passed his rivals, with Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen second and Edvald Boasson Hagen third.
Froome leads by 18 seconds overall from Italy’s Fabio Aru and is 51 seconds ahead of Romain Bardet in third.
Britain’s Daniel McLay finished fifth in the stage, with compatriot Ben Swift in ninth.
“It’s perfect at the moment,” said Kittel. “The race [for the green jersey] is not over but I’ve used all my chances that I’ve got so far.”
‘I’m seeing sprints like Tetris’ – Kittel
Quick-Step rider Kittel was the firm favourite to win in Pau, having claimed his fourth stage in imperious fashion on Tuesday.
Once again the 29-year-old German had enough time to raise his arm aloft, signifying his five stage wins, as he coasted over the line, his rivals only able to draft in behind him.
Kittel’s team-mates Jack Bauer, Philippe Gilbert and the particularly impressive Julien Vermote all did extended turns at the front of the peloton late on to reel in Bodnar and hold off rival sprint trains.
“When you’re on your top level as a sprinter, it’s like playing Tetris and you’re just trying to find the gaps,” said Kittel.
“I’ve not made a mistake and again I could just jump from wheel to wheel.
“It’s really nice to give the team a victory because my team all worked hard – they’re champions and they’re killing it for me.”
Kittel is now just one behind the six stages won in 2009 by Britain’s Mark Cavendish – who crashed out of this year’s race – and could surpass that tally, with three of the remaining stages potentially ending in a sprint finish.
Although riders in the breakaway will look to take victory on Stages 16 and 19, both of which feature several categorised climbs, it is tough to see anyone beating Kittel on the final stage sprint down the Champs Elysees.
He also holds a likely insurmountable lead in the green jersey points competition, with a total of 335 so far, 133 ahead of Australia’s Michael Matthews.
Heartbreak for Bodnar
With many riders aiming to have a relatively calm stage before the challenges of the Pyrenees this week, a three-man group of Bodnar, Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Marco Marcato (Team UAE Emirates) were allowed to attack from the off and quickly establish a lead of four minutes.
The peloton seemed to have the breakaway in check throughout, never permitting the gap to grow too large and a simple catch looked to be close when the gap fell to 30 seconds with 30km to go.
However, the gap held for another 5km and Bodnar then attacked, leaving Backaert and Marcato behind and restoring his lead to over one minute.
The sprinters’ teams responded but Bodnar – a gifted time trial rider – drew on every reserve to still lead into the final kilometre only to be swept up with around 250 metres to go, eventually rolling over the line in 54th place.
“I am disappointed because I was caught in the last 250 metres and it was my best day and I wanted to win for my team, for Peter Sagan [who was disqualified after stage four] and my dad who died two months ago,” Bodnar told ITV4.
“The last 20km was my best time trial but I’m not happy about today – I can be happy about my legs but not about the result.”
Crashes belie quiet day
Team Sky’s Froome was well protected by his team-mates throughout to easily claim the 51st yellow jersey of his career, moving him into fourth outright on the all-time list behind Eddy Merckx (96), Bernard Hinault (75) and Miguel Indurain (60).
Britain’s Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) also remains in the best young rider’s white jersey but other general classification riders were caught up in crashes.
Bardet, fifth-placed rider Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and two-time champion Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) all fell and had to be paced back to the peloton by team-mates.
Fuglsang suffered two “very small fractures” according to his team, one in his left wrist, which he broke five years ago, and another in his left elbow. However, Astana stated that Fuglsang will start Thursday’s stage 12 in spite of his injuries.
The Dane’s team-mate Dario Cataldo was forced to abandon after being caught up in the same crash, with scans later showing the Italian suffered a small fracture in his left wrist.
While none of Froome’s rivals lost time, they will be frustrated to have endured nervy moments on a seemingly benign stage before a summit finish on Thursday’s stage 12.
The 214.5km stage sees five categorised climbs in the final 100km and more than 3,000 meters of ascending should help shake up the general classification.
Stage 11 result:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Quick-Step Floors) 4hrs 34mins 27secs
2. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL-Jumbo) Same time
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Team Dimension Data)
4. Michael Matthews (Aus/Team Sunweb)
5. Daniel McLay (GB/Fortuneo-Oscaro)
6. Davide Cimolai (Ita/FDJ)
7. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto Soudal)
8. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra/Cofidis)
9. Ben Swift (GB/Team UAE Emirates)
10. Danilo Wyss (Swi/BMC Racing)
General classification after stage 11:
1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 42hrs 27mins 29secs
2. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana Pro Team) +18secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale) +51secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Cannondale-Drapac) +55secs
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana Pro Team) +1min 37secs
6. Daniel Martin (Ire/Quick-Step Floors) +1min 44secs
7. Simon Yates (GB/Orica-Scott) +2min 02secs
8. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar Team) +2min 13secs
9. Mikel Landa (Spa/Team Sky) +3min 06secs
10. George Bennett (NZ/LottoNL-Jumbo) +3min 53secs