Kittel comes of age with four Tour de France stage wins
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kittel comes of age with four Tour de France stage wins

by Kyle Moore at 8:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Argos-Shimano management commends the squad’s hard work

Marcel KittelMarcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) had what was consistently the best lead out train in the 100th Tour de France, and he capitalized with consistently the fastest sprint finish in the race, punctuated by his fourth stage win on the Champs Élysées.

The German was placed nearly perfectly by his squad on the Champs, and though he was forced to turn on the jets a little early, he used his extended power to hold off runner up André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

The Argos-Shimano train got a little help from a Lotto-Belisol rider to overtake a line made up of Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Cannondale riders, with Greipel firmly pinned to Kittel’s wheel. This allowed Kittel to have the prime position when the sprint began, and while Greipel and Cavendish both had decent opportunities to come out of his wheel, neither could.

Several of the lead out trains were operating short-handed, but it was Argos-Shimano that coped the best. They were missing their true lead out man Tom Veelers, while Lotto-Belisol was short of Marcel Sieberg, and lost Jürgen Roelandts just before the finish with a flat tire. Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad seemed to be operating with all its men, but they have not been as sharp as previous Cavendish support squads of the past.

With a remarkable fourth victory coming their way, Argos-Shimano management credited their years of work, increasing experience, and ability to adjust to the loss of Veelers.

“This victory is a reward for our way of working and for how well the team have pulled together over the past three weeks," said team coach Christian Guiberteau. "Once everybody survived the mountains we were fully focused on this stage. Together with the experts, coaches and riders we analyzed the finish before the stage and how best to change the lead-out and to know exactly what to do and when.

"We made these changes and it worked out perfectly. The goal was to bring a perfect sprint train, and with four stage wins, we have showed that our sprint train works really well. To achieve this success with our team is a great reward for our way of working.”

Tracing the squad back to its first run at the highest level, when it went by Skil-Shimano, and the strides the team has made forward in the last few years become very evident. On Skil-Shimano, a tenacious but under-matched Kenny Van Hummel took part in the sprints. A few years later, the internally developed Kittel sprinted to the most stage victories of anyone. Team director Iwan Spekenbrink recognized the significance of the Champs Élysées triumph, to go with their other wins.

“This stage is the highlight - what else can we ask for," Spekenbrink proclaimed. "A Tour with so much history – winning stage one the first time the race has been to Corsica and taking the yellow jersey, and taking the final stage the first time it has been run in the evening. It’s so symbolic, and to win the stages we have won is amazing.

"The Champs Élysées is the World Championships of the sprints; everyone wants to get to the last corner first and the guys did it.”

Similar to Greipel’s and Cavendish’s, Kittel’s sprint train seems to be a tight-knit bunch, celebrating victories whole-heartedly, as a team. The sport as a whole benefits from having another powerful sprint squad, to go along with Greipel’s bunch, which will be back at full strength soon, as well as Cavendish’s train, which will benefit from the additions of Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Renshaw next year.

"We have come a long, long way, with successes and failures, but we have kept believing all the while and this is really the reward for everyone in the team but also anyone connected to the team,” Spekenbrink added.

“Our secret is believing in the team and having an extremely loyal group of people with exceptional team spirit to keep everyone motivated and confident.”

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