Tour de France: Argos-Shimano aiming high with Kittel and Gretsch in week one
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Friday, June 29, 2012

Tour de France: Argos-Shimano aiming high with Kittel and Gretsch in week one

by Kyle Moore at 3:05 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Dutch team's Tom Veelers set to get everything started at 14:00 local time

Marcel KittelIn its first Tour de France since 2009, when they were called Skil-Shimano, wildcard invitee Argos-Shimano is looking for a season-defining stage win in the first week of the French Grand Tour.

In 2009, the squad was just hoping to make noise in any way it could, and team rider Kenny Van Hummel became famous for his exploits in doggedly attempting to complete each mountain stage inside the time limit. Their highlight finish in the Tour three years ago was Cyril Lemoine’s third place on a wind-ravaged stage three.

In 2012, with the development of wunderkind sprinter Marcel Kittel, the Dutch squad has a legitimate chance at competing for headlines with the other teams from their country – WorldTour organizations Rabobank and Vacansoleil-DCM.

As Kittel gets his first chance at the Tour de France in just his second year as a professional, and without any real threats to the general classification on their team, Argos-Shimano has built a team of eight others with the sole purpose of sheltering Kittel, along with getting into breakaways.

“We have the ambition to get a stage win with Marcel in the bunch sprint,” team manager Rudi Kemna stated.

Kemna was running the squad in France three years ago, when the team had no real objective other than fighting, scrapping, and doing anything it could for a win.

“That Tour our goal was to attack and show ourselves up front,” Kemna added. “Now we have Marcel Kittel with whom we really stand a chance in a sprint.”

Still with inexperience in the three-week race, Kittel is likely to struggle as the Tour moves into the mountains in the second week. While other sprinters will get over them, recover, and battle out the second round of flat finishes, Kittel could have trouble recuperating after dragging his large frame over the hills.

Kemna stated that most of his sprinter’s goals lie in the first week.

“In the first week we see four opportunities for Kittel, in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth stages,” he added. “Although in the fifth stage there’s a third category hill fifteen kilometers from the finish. There the competition will drive the pace to shrug off Marcel. We will have to work hard to get him back at the front after the climb.”

This July also marks the Tour de France debut for Argos-Shimano time trial specialist Patrick Gretsch. The former HTC-Highroad rider struggled in the German national time trial last week, but Kemna believes he can bounce back. Gretsch got a win early in the season in the 6km prologue of the Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol. Tomorrow’s prologue in Liège spans 6.4km, albeit with a great deal more talent in the field.

“With Patrick Gretsch we have a time trial specialist in our ranks,” said Kemna. “Of course a prologue is a bit shorter, but Patrick can do well there too. Last week at the German time trial championship Patrick had a bad day and finished only eighth. That can happen. In Liège we hope he can record a top ten finish.”

When the Tour de France gets underway tomorrow, Argos-Shimano rider Tom Veelers represents the first action spectators in Liège will see, as the first rider out of the start house at 14:00 local time.


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