Marcel Kittel again underlined why he is the main man to beat in the sprints in this year’s Tour de France after triumphing on The Mall to win Stage Three from Cambridge to London, his second victory in three days.
The Team Giant-Shimano rider always looked in command as he took the lead in the closing stages, holding off the challenge of Green Jersey wearer Peter Sagan, while Mark Renshaw – the Omega Pharma Quick-Step teammate of Ongar’s injured star Mark Cavendish – finished third in front of massive crowds along the route in central London.
The German triumphed on the final stage of last year’s Tour on the Champs-Elysees when he ended Cavendish’s dominance in Paris and he can now add winning in front of Buckingham Palace to his growing list of achievements in the world’s biggest bike race.
"It's [winning's] pretty close to the Champs-Elysees," a smiling Kittel told American TV after standing on top of the podium. "I said already to someone else, it was one of the greatest finishes I've ever seen in front of that setting."
Having already tasted victory on the first stage into Harrogate on Saturday, Kittel was asked how many stages he could go on to win.
"So far it's only two," he responded, "and from now I will take it day by day. There's still a couple of chances coming for us but we will see."
Like the first two stages in Yorkshire, the route was lined by huge crowds - and the section through west Essex and East London was no exception - but for the majority of the 155km, the spectators were treated to two riders leading the way.
Jean-Marc Bideau and Jan Barta attacked from the outset and at one stage they had established a lead in excess of four minutes over the main field.
Bretagne-Seche rider Bideau took the plaudits ahead of his breakaway partner at the Epping Forest Sprint with 47km remaining, but by this point the peloton were getting to work and starting to reel in the two leaders.
Team Netapp-Endura's Barta made a brave solo bid with around 8km left, but the writing was on the wall and he was soon swallowed up by the field as the sprinters' teams came to the fore.
Lotto-Belisol and Omega Pharma-Quick Step - without Cavendish to try and launch to glory after his stage one crash - were among those to feature prominently as the pace was cranked up in the capital on roads slickened by some unwanted rain.
But it was the superbly-drilled Giant Shimano squad who set the race up for Kittel to claim his sixth Tour victory in two years - with the probability of more to come.