Kittel wins Tour stage; Froome keeps lead
Kittel held off countryman Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish in a dash to the line to win his second stage of the Tour. Cavendish nudged Dutchman Tom Veelers off his bike as they sprinted for home.
"I touched him. The road was bearing left," Cavendish said. "Yeah, it was my fault. ... I hope he's OK."
Froome was at a safe distance behind, much to his relief.
"That's everyone's worst nightmare. Fortunately I was to the side of that crash and went around it no problem," Froome said. "I'm feeling really good. Today was a great day for us, staying out of trouble, staying at the front. That was one of the objectives today, save the legs as much as possible."
Kittel won the opening stage and is now the first rider to capture two stages in this year's race.
"Things went very well with my team today," he said. "I managed to get on Greipel's wheel and overtake him."
Peter Sagan, who won the green jersey for best sprinter in last year's Tour, finished the stage in fourth. The Slovak holds a commanding 83-point lead over Greipel and is 103 in front of archrival Cavendish, who won the green jersey in 2011.
The finish looked tailor-made for Cavendish, who was going for his 25th career Tour stage win to tie Frenchman Andre Leducq on the all-time list of Tour stage winners.
"I think this team could've done something differently, but we'll talk about that later," Cavendish said.
As the British rider moved into position to attack before the final corner, Cavendish appeared to lean into Veelers and send the Argos-Shimano rider flying off his bike. Race stewards were examining what happened.
"I hope that Tom isn't hurt too badly," said Kittel, his teammate.
Following a rest day, the 122-mile flat ride started from Saint-Gildas-Des-Bois in northwest France and finished in the walled port city of Saint-Malo, a tourist destination on the north coast of Brittany.
Froome, the Tour runner-up to British countryman Bradley Wiggins last year, has a healthy lead over second-place Alejandro Valverde and two-time champion Alberto Contador. Froome is looking to increase that in Wednesday's time trial -- a 20.5-mile dash from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel, a walled medieval abbey in Normandy.
"Tomorrow's definitely a day where I will try and extend my lead," Froome said. "I do look forward to it. It's definitely a day that could help the general classification. I definitely want to go for it."
A five-man breakaway attacked from the start, opening a lead of five minutes, but they were caught with less than 4 miles to go.
Froome took the yellow jersey on Saturday with a devastating attack on the last climb of the first Pyrenean stage and then successfully defended it the following day in the face of several attacks from his rivals. He stays 1 minute, 25 seconds ahead of Valverde, while Contador is 1:51 behind in sixth.
Froome finished last year's Tour time trial in second place behind Wiggins. None of his main rivals is as quick as he is in a time trial.
"I don't think they really like these kind of time trials," Froome said. "I should be able to hold on to my advantage and maybe get some more time."
Following the time trial there will be two flat stages before the Tour heads back to the mountains.
There have been several crashes so far and there were a couple of minor ones Tuesday as the pack hurtled toward the finish line. The first brought down two riders as the peloton split in two going around a roundabout with about 12 miles to go, and another two fell after locking bikes slightly further on. All of them hopped back on their bikes.
"It was a bit tricky towards the end there and there was a bit of crosswind, and it definitely makes the peloton more nervous," Froome said. "Every day you get through with the yellow jersey is a blessing, so I'm happy just to tick that one off."
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