An opening-day victory and pulling on the race leader's jersey at the Presidential Tour of Turkey was further confirmation that Marcel Kittel and his Argos-Shimano squad deserve their place in the WorldTour. Last year Kittel was hardly in the mix to sprint for the win at Turkey and just 12 months on and the conclusion of the 49th edition and the German can rest up having taking a hat-trick of stage wins.
The Argos-Shimano sprint train has undeniably stepped up this year, and it's not just the upgrade from Professional Continental to a ProTour license. The team has learned from a season of tough times and has really come together as a collective unit for 2013, showing their calm approach in the hectic sprint finishes at Turkey. Returning to the Tour de France in July will provide the Dutch team with a true understanding of where they lie in the sprinting ranks.
"Our day was pretty relaxed, there wasn't a big fight like the last few stages," explained Kittel at the finish. "We started to control with Cheng and Thomas who have done a lot of work in the past week, they did great.
"We stayed in front coming into the finish and the boys were in a good position. We were maybe a little too early but we are at a level now that we can deal with these kind of situations. I am really proud of this week.
"The team as a whole have made big improvements from last year, and I feel that I've made a step myself too, but all the riders became stronger and it showed in the way that we handle situations. This is what this team is about and it is great to see it happen.
There's little doubt however, that Argos has the ability to go up against the likes of Lotto Belisol and André Greipel come Tour time and it's a sentiment that team general manager Iwan Spekenbrink echoed after the sprinter captured his seventh win of the year. Spekenbrink had most recently voiced his concerns over the current state of profesisonal cycling and outlined the support given to the entire team, not just its star performers like Kittel.
"Back-to-back victories for the team with another dominant sprint train performing a classy lead-out today," said Spekenbrink. "It was a great sprint for Marcel ahead of world-class sprinters like Greipel and Guardini. We're proud on this 7th victory of the season for the team!"
Kittel's third win at Turkey on the final day came off the back of his victory on the penultimate stage and was a tidy way to wrap up the race for the team that also finised with a rider inside the top-20 with neo-pro Warren Barguil. Kittel has been involved in the crash that took out a lot of the big name sprinters on Stage 2 and while he considered withdrawing from the eight-day race, he was glad he pushed on despite the pain.
"It was quite a heavy week with the heavy crash on Stage 2. I was even not sure if I could start the next day, but fortunately I was able to carry on and look back now on good week with three wins," said Kittel.
"Now I am heading home, will have some time at home to train before heading to [Tour de] Picardie for the next race."