Kittel 3 Cav 1 as Froome avoids spills

Updated 12 July 2013
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Kittel 3 Cav 1 as Froome avoids spills

TOURS, France: Germany’s Marcel Kittel underlined his status as the top sprinter at the 100th Tour de France by beating Britain’s Mark Cavendish to victory on the crash-marred 12th stage yesterday.
Kenyan-born Briton Chris Froome of Team Sky finished just behind to protect his 3min 25sec lead over Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and 3:54 advantage over two-time race winner Alberto Contador.
Froome did well to stay clear of two crashes in the closing kilometers, and despite the flat terrain, he admitted: “It seems like there’s no such thing as an easy day on the Tour de France. It was a hard day out there.
“Every time I cross the finish line there’s a little sigh of relief.”
As Froome took another step toward an anticipated yellow jersey battle in the Alps beginning Sunday, Kittel matched compatriot Erik Zabel’s record for the most number of wins by a German in a single edition.
He also won the race opener and stage 10, when Cavendish came third having caused a crash which brought down Kittel’s Argos teammate Tom Veelers.
“I didn’t know that! But I’m proud of it,” said Kittel. “Today it was great to beat Cavendish in a straightforward sprint.”
Kittel, though, had one less opponent to deal with for the bunch gallop to the finish after compatriot Andre Greipel (Lotto) was delayed by a crash which brought down several of his teammates inside the last two kilometers.
Greg Henderson, Jurgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg all hit the tarmac and although they escaped serious injury the pile-up delayed Greipel sufficiently to end his sprint hopes.
Edvald Boasson Hagen, Froome’s Sky teammate, was also caught up and his future on this year’s Tour is now in doubt after he crossed the finish holding his collarbone.
It was his second spill of the day and race officials later announced the Norwegian had suffered a badly bruised elbow in the first crash and “small fractures” in the humerus bone at the top of his shoulder as well as on his right shoulder blade.
A five-man breakaway quickly formed on the 218km trek to Tours and they were allowed to build a lead which hit a maximum of nine minutes.
But on the last stage suited to the sprinters until the finale on the Champs Elysees in Paris, they were on borrowed time.
Experienced Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha was the last to resist but despite a late solo bid he was reeled in with six kilometers remaining.
Moments later a turn of speed at the front by Contador’s Saxo teammates prompted Sky’s Ian Stannard to haul Froome up near the front of the bunch on his wheel as the bunch split into several pieces in their wake.

When it came to the crunch, Kittel, racing his second Tour having quit with a viral infection on his debut last year, showed his previous wins were no fluke.
After the final bend helped thin out the group of frontrunners even further, Cavendish was brought on to the home straight in textbook fashion by Belgian lead-out man Gert Steegmans.
Kittel, however, jumped quickly on to Cavendish’s wheel in the final 250 meters and pulled off to the left to pass the Manxman with relative ease in the closing 50.
“In the final 200m I was able to sit on his wheel. We started the sprint together, and I had the best punch at the end,” added Kittel.
“I’m proud to know that I can beat the world’s best. We had worked and had prepared well before the Tour but when everything falls into place like this it is incredible.”
It was Germany’s fifth win from the 12 stages so far and prompted questions over the form of Cavendish, who has averaged a little more than four wins a year on the race since his maiden win in 2008.
But the Manxman, who has won only one stage so far on this edition, taking his career tally to 24, said he was beaten fair and square.
He said: “I could look at it again, but he was just faster.”


Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

Updated 20 min 12 sec ago
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Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

MADRID: Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was left out of Spain’s World Cup squad, announced on Monday.
Morata paid the price for a disappointing debut season in the Premier League as Spain coach Julen Lopetegui picked Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno up front, along with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.
“The decision is always difficult because of the talent of the players we have,” Lopetegui said.
“We have opted for three other players who had different assets and including four players up front was not something we wanted to do.”
Two more Chelsea players also missed out as Marcos Alonso and Cesc Fabregas were not included in the 23-man group.
Morata’s absence was the stand-out decision, however, even if it was not an entirely surprising one given the 25-year-old’s dramatic dip in form.
After scoring seven goals in his first seven games for Chelsea, a back injury seemed to affect his confidence. Morata has scored only three times in 22 games since the turn of the year.
“I’ve talked to the players I had to talk to,” Lopetegui said. “I’m not going to name anybody, but there are players who had to find out from me that they were not going to be on the list.”
In contrast, Aspas and Moreno have been in excellent form for Celta Vigo and Valencia respectively, with Aspas the top Spanish scorer in La Liga on 22 goals.
Costa is expected to start when Spain open up against Portugal in Group B on June 15 but Aspas, with his speed and direct running, remains an attractive option.
Alonso only made his debut in a friendly against Argentina in March and lost out to Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal. Fabregas fell behind Spain’s impressive wealth of options in midfield, which will include Sergio Busquets, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.
Manchester United’s David de Gea was included as expected, along with fellow goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta did make it in, as did Monreal. Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Jordi Alba complete Spain’s group of defenders.
“I’ve had several doubts, making a list of 23 is very difficult,” Lopetegui said. “But we have decided this was the most balanced decision and the one we think will help us most at the World Cup.”