The German sprinter previewed the opening day of the race and made an analysis of the team he has by his side.
Returning to the Tour de France – a race in which he has tasted success on eight occasions – after two years, Marcel Kittel will head up the Etixx – Quick-Step team as he'll look to add more wins to the ten he already got this season, a tally which makes him the most successful World Tour rider of 2016: "I'm satisfied with how this year went so far. I worked hard, the team did absolutely everything to support me and things played into my favour. Now I am looking forward to the Tour and I hope to have three good weeks. Although the pressure is there, I'm going into Saturday's stage confident and relaxed."
The sprints – with their frenzy, intense fight for position, crazy speeds and mad dash to the line – are one of cycling's highlights, but in order to be there, at the business end of a flat stage and take the icing on the cake, you need a flawless machine, with well-oiled cogs. Every rider has his role and knows when to come to the forefront and then bow out from the scene following a tactic which has been developed since the start of the season and implemented in races over the last months.
Less than 24 hours before the Tour de France kicks off in the spectacular surroundings of Mont-Saint-Michel, Kittel explained the anatomy of the team for the flat stages of the Tour de France: "Fabio is the last man in front of me. We worked together all year and I like that he's calm and knows when to go, but also when to sit and patiently wait for the right moment. It's one of the keys of sprinting to have such a reliable guy by your side. In front of him, we count on Max and Tony, two strong and very experienced riders. Petr and Julian also bring an important contribution to the team, while Julien and Iljo, both incredible powerful riders, are the ones who can control the race. As for Dan, it will be very important for him to stay out of trouble in the sprints."
For the third time in five years, the Tour de France will open with a road stage, which will take the peloton over 188 kilometers, from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach, a key point during the Normandy landings, more than seven decades ago. The parcours is flat, but a few bumps will come into play in the final kilometers, when the bunch is expected to hit some really fast speeds. Besides these, another important factor in the outcome will be the weather, as rain and crosswinds are forecasted for Saturday.
"The last kilometers will be nervous and fast: downhill, straight forward and with no corners. You need a good position, but also to be lucky. As that part is in a downhill, having a strong team doesn't bring you such a big advantage, because many squads will be there, with their sprinters and GC men, fighting to get at the front", Marcel concluded before going for one last training on the northern roads of France.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele