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PARIS, France (VN) — He went from the challenger to the sprint king in one short year. And if there had been any doubt, Marcel Kittel’s 2014 Tour de France confirmed his place as the sprinter’s man to beat. All told, Kittel won four stages at the Tour this year, including the finale in Paris, and asserted himself as the fastest man in the peloton.
For his Giant-Shimano manager, this was the Tour the young German needed. Last season was his surprise crashing of the party. This season was his rightful seating at the head of the table.
“It’s more difficult, eh? Last year, when you challenge somebody it’s nice. You can only win. But this year he can only lose,” Iwan Spekenbrink told VeloNews.
“Especially the first stage. I had a big respect for him. You saw the tension. For all the sprinters second place was not an option. They were so tense. And that he managed to get above himself. After the pressure that he has from himself and from the outside? I think that he proved there that he is one of the three now.”
The other two main men in the sprints, Spekenbrink said, are Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish and Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel.
Kittel won a yellow jersey for the second year running, and now has eight stage wins in the last two Tours, more than any other true sprinter. His Giant-Shimano squad is also the best in the leadout business right now, making Kittel even harder to beat.
The handsome sprinter with the movie-star hair (and aviator shades) fits the bill physically, without question. But in interviews he lacks that famous sharp edge most of them — the best, anyways — seem to possess. It’s a bit of a gentle-giant vibe he puts out.
But Spekenbrink says he’s just as focused as anyone, if not more so. Just as driven.
“Marcel is a sprinter … For a sprinter, second is the first loser,” he said. “And so they have that tension that you have to cope with. And in the end he wants to win badly.”
For Giant, the success here isn’t something that happened simply on the legs of Kittel, or off the wheel of John Degenkolb. It’s just one more day in a long process that began months, years, ago.
“We make goals and we prepare on every detail as good as we can. Training. Nutrition. Equipment. Focus. Rest. Innovation. And when we do all the steps right then the result is outcome,” Spekenbrink said.
“Then you perform at your level or even above your level. That’s how you perform. You are good. If it’s five, it’s five; if it’s three, it’s three; if it’s one, it’s one … That way we keep developing.
“We focus not on ‘You have to win today,’ but we focus on the work that we do from November. Then here at the start basically we have not so much to say anymore.”
After the 2014 Tour, Kittel doesn’t have to say a word.