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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Marcel Kittel (Team Argos-Shimano) celebrates victory on the opening stage at the Tour of Turkey.
Well-drilled Argos-Shimano launch sprinter to victory on Stage 1
A year on from riding his first Presidential Tour of Turkey without even coming close to a win and Marcel Kittel has already put his stamp on the sprinter's field by taking a clear victory on Stage 1 at the eight-stage race. The win along the flat finish in Alanya was the big German's fourth for the year and he's not planning on taking a back seat for the rest of the race - he's there for more and the team will look to do the same tomorrow when he lines up in the race leader's blue jersey.
"Before the stage we made a good plan, based on our experience from last year, and everyone knew what to do," said sports director Marc Reef in a team release. "It worked out perfectly - the timing was fantastic. Marcel is in great form and the team is at a high level. Tomorrow we will protect Marcel’s leader’s jersey and aim for another sprint win for him."
Kittel has been on a winning run since taking out Stage 1 at the Tour of Oman but it wasn't such a rosie start to the season for the rider who headed Down Under to open his 2013 season. His team demonstrated ample strength during the six-day race in Australia but the 24-year-old simply wasn't in good enough shape to contest the finishing sprints - nor the early riser Andre Greipel who crushed the field once again this year. Kittel did however, folow his Oman victory up with a stage at Paris-Nice and most recently going back-to-back at the one-day race, Scheldeprijs.
"Today was a very good example of how a team should work," said Kittel. "In the last 5km we had to brake because of a crash, which forced us to chase back, but the guys did their job and we moved up to the front all together."
Kittel was one the few sprinters who still had teammates around him when the race entered the final two kilometres in Turkey with the Argos-Shimano train following the ebs and flows of the hauling peloton. It was only in the last kilometres that just Koen De Kort remained but by that time the sprint had been opened by Yuriy Metlushenko from Torku Sekerspor - the team that was stripped of the overall win in 2012 after the winner Ivailo Gabrovski returned a positive test for EPO.
With 200m remaining Kittel made simple of work of sprinting out of the chaos and into clean air. It was a dominant and confidence-building win for the rider who is aiming towards a serious assault at the Tour de France this year.
"I was able to start sprinting late, with Koen leading me out. When the other riders around me started their sprint I followed. I had to find a gap, which wasn’t a problem, and I was able to pass them," said Kittel.
"I have really good legs at the moment. Last week we had a great training camp at the team’s base in Spain, and we worked hard on our sprint, conditioning and also tactics, and this win is a great reward. I look forward to wearing the leader’s jersey tomorrow and hope to wear it for another day."