Tour de France 2014: Marcel Kittel waiting to capture Manx Missile’s sprint crown

 

leeds

When Marcel Kittel took part in the Giro d’Italia in Northern Ireland this May, the Belfast Telegraph namechecked the Giant-Shimano rider as “one of the top 10 things to watch out for in the race”. The Telegraph reasoned the 26-year-old sprinter’s handsome blond looks were sure to cause heads to turn – but  as it happened, Kittel did not need to rely on them to be the centre of attention.

The German won both opening road stages in the Giro, in Dublin and Belfast, in blistering style. And in Saturday’s forthcoming Tour de France’s first stage in Harrogate, if Mark Cavendish is the top local favourite, Kittel will be bearing the mantle of the sprinter to beat - for Cavendish and the rest of the field.

It wasn’t just that last year Kittel won the equivalent stage of the Tour de France, in Corsica. The German then took another three bunch sprints, beating Cavendish each time, including on the Champs-Elysées, where Cavendish’s unbroken run of wins had stretched back to 2009.

So is Kittel’s 2014 season “all about Harrogate” - as Cavendish said this February that his year was going to be?

“Cav’s situation is a bit different,” Kittel tells The Independent recently as he sits sipping a coffee in the Sierra Nevada ski station near Granada – where he is altitude training for the Tour.

“It’s the Tour de France in his home country and the first stage ends near where his mum used to live, it’s a special place for him.

“For me, it is a goal. But I’ve also ridden over the first stage route and I don’t think it’ll automatically end in a bunch sprint. As a team, we are ready for all kinds of outcomes in that stage, not just me going for it.”

Should the front group split on the Yorkshire hills, as Kittel believes is very possible, with the “pure” sprinters like Cavendish getting left behind, Giant-Shimano will be ready to work for John Degenkolb – a fast rider, but more of an all-rounder than either the Briton or Kittel.

“The only thing we can be certain about that first stage is that nothing is certain, the second [York-Sheffield] is a day for the GC [general classification] racers, and the third, into London, is the most likely to end in a bunch sprint.”

As Kittel points out, the first two thirds of stage one “are really not easy, with the climbs and small roads, it’s very exposed, too. The last 50 kilometres are more simple, but the final has a lot of undulating roads. If they race very hard, it will be tricky to see a bunch sprint come about.”

One similarity between Cavendish and Kittel off the bike is that both are not afraid to speak their mind. Kittel, for one, is critical of the roads the Tour organisers have chosen to use in stages one and two, saying: “They are dangerous, really narrow.

“Think about it. There will be a really nervous peloton, everyone is fresh and wants to win that opening stage.

“When we get to the narrow roads, the problem is the stone walls,”  – on either side of many of Yorkshire’s rural routes. “If everybody is fighting to be on the front, [with the walls] you can’t go left or right,” – or in the case of crashes – “there is nowhere to avoid them. That’s not good for the peloton’s safety, it would have been wiser to choose other routes.”

Like Cavendish, too, Kittel is very modest about his initial Tour targets, saying  – as Cavendish invariably does – “if I win one stage this year, and finish the race, I’ll be happy. Riders’ careers can be made around winning just one Tour stage. It’s that difficult to do.”

And if he can take his one stage of the race in Harrogate, then Kittel will be making heads turn yet again from day one of the Tour.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test