Marcel Kittel will make his Tour de France debut at the head of a solid Argos-Shimano line-up. The Dutch-based squad announced its nine-man team on Tuesday and enters the race with the aim of taking a stage win.
Two stage victories against the likes of Mark Cavendish and André Greipel at the Ster ZLM Toer last week brought Kittel’s tally for the season to seven, and the German is not lacking in form or confidence as he turns his thoughts to the Tour.
"I’m going to France to challenge Cavendish,” Kittel said. "I’m looking forward to fighting against him. He is currently the best sprinter in the world.”
As expected, the key components of Kittel’s sprint train at last season’s Vuelta a España have made the Argos-Shimano selection. Roy Curvers and Koen de Kort marshalled Kittel through the final kilometres on that occasion, while Tom Veelers was his lead-out man, a combination which yielded stage victory in Talavera de la Reina.
New signing Patrick Gretsch will play his part in Greipel’s lead-out this time around, but on the opening day he will be hoping to get his own race off to the best possible start in the Liège prologue.
The team also includes Johannes Fröhlinger, Albert Timmer and the French duo Matthieu Sprick and Yann Huguet, although there is no place for their promising fellow countryman Alexandre Geniez.
“Our team has a world-class sprint train and with Marcel Kittel we have a young sprinter who in the Tour will explore his possibilities at the highest level,” said co-manager Sissy van Alebeek.
While Kittel’s sprint is Argos-Shimano’s best chance of success in the team’s first Tour appearance since 2009, riders like de Kort will also be encouraged the infiltrate breakaways in the second and third week of the race. The Dutchman was an impressive third-place finisher at Dwars door Vlaanderen in March, before a broken collarbone cut short his classics campaign.
Argos-Shimano team for 2012 Tour de France: Marcel Kittel (Ger), Patrick Gretsch (Ger), Roy Curvers (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned), Tom Veelers (Ned), Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger), Matthieu Sprick (Fra), Albert Timmer (Ned) and Yann Huguet (Fra).