Kittel win Tour de France fourth stage, Froome retains overall lead

George Bennett has moved up to 10th in the Tour de France

GETTY IMAGES George Bennett has moved up to 10th in the Tour de France

The hostile terrain of sun- and snow-scorched rocks and the thinning mountain air on the long climb to an altitude of 2,360 meters (7,742 feet) could make the Izoard, at the end of stage 18, the scene of the last major contest between the remaining favorites. 'It is a lifetime experience.' Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of LottoNL-Jumbo was second ahead of Team Dimension Data's Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Britain's Daniel McLay finished fifth in the stage, with compatriot Ben Swift in ninth. "I never expected it when I was starting my career", Kittel said.

"It's a scary prospect when you've got to survive two weeks like that but I've done it before and I feel like I can do it again". What made Cavendish unique was his ability to achieve a high rate of stage wins year in, year out, between 2008 and 2012.

He won by a bike's length and had plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line.

"Most of you know me and know that I am quite optimistic, but now the priority is to recover and, if I do it, try to do the best I can", Contador told journalists on Monday.

"That was that. I think 10 seconds more then we could celebrate something nice".

"I actually came out really good on Kittel's wheel with a bit more speed".

Degenkolb said after the stage that Kittel was from "another planet" and he certainly seems peerless in the race this year, winning four of the five bunch sprints he has contested.

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.

Right now, though, it's all about recovery for Froome and the other leaders after Sunday's punishing mountain leg.

At that point, the main pack was travelling at full speed as the sprinters' teams rode hard at the front to catch the last fugitive of the day, Maciej Bodnar of Poland.

"I was talking to "Eddy" (Boasson Hagen) after the finish and I was like "what was that?' and he said 'oh yeah, I thought you were coming and I didn't see anyone else", Matthews said. Side yellow jersey still no change with Christopher Froome. British promising Simon Yates had no clue of falling down on the best young rider honor.

Two-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain, now 12th overall also hit the deck with less than 20 kilometers to go.

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