Germany's Marcel Kittel showed he may be the sprinter to beat at the Tour de France, speeding to his second stage win this year in Stage 3 as cycling's big event entered London before leaving England for France.

Rain in the City of London doused riders at the end of the 155km ride from the university town of Cambridge to a dramatic finish past landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster.

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall leader's yellow jersey with a two-second lead on the most likely contenders to win the three-week race in Paris on July 27.

Kittel, led out perfectly by Giant-Shimano teammates, made it look easy as he sped down the final wide approach on The Mall with Buckingham Palace behind him. Peter Sagan of Slovakia was second and Australia's Mark Renshaw was third.

"It was awesome,'' said Kittel, who won four Tour stages last year. "I'm really really happy I could win in front of Buckingham Palace.''

Pack starts breaking

After a gruelling up-and-down day through the hills and dales of Yorkshire, amid huge roadside crowds, the pack seemed content to cruise for parts of Stage 3, letting two breakaway riders go free. They were caught with about 6 km left.

The first three stages in England have been a runaway success for fans with many Britons waving French flags and Union Jacks.

With about 30km left, 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck of Luxembourg was among riders that had a mishap after an apparent collision with a fan who was seen on French TV laying on the ground as Schleck gingerly returned to the race.

Riders were to fly across the Channel for the start of Stage 4, which is a 163.5km ride from Le Touquet-Paris Plage to Lille Metropole on the border with Belgium.

The course route notably bypassed Trafalgar Square, whose landmark Nelson's Column commemorates a British hero of the Napoleonic Wars.

Source: AP