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.

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: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US