Argos Shimano sprint lead-out man Tom Veelers has said teammate Marcel Kittel is the fastest pure sprinter in the peloton at the Tour de France– a title that has been the uncontested property of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) for the last five years.
“I think at moment he’s the fastest,” Veelers said matter-of-factly outside the team bus after Kittel took his third stage win. “I think it’s clear and you saw it. It was a straight-up sprint and Marcel beat him.”
Veelers’ sentiment was echoed by his teammate John Degenkolb, who rode with Cavendish at HTC-Highroad in 2011. Asked if Kittel is the best sprinter at the Tour, he said simply: “I think he’s the fastest."
So far this year, Cavendish has one stage to his name. From 2008 to 2012 Cavendish won 23 stages, an average of 4.6 stages a year.
Struggling after clashing with Cavendish
Veelers is currently struggling with injuries from a crash three days ago in a typically fraught sprint into Saint-Malo. The crash happened after making contact with Mark Cavendish. Veelers said recovering from injuries while riding "a bloc" had been tough and he was yet to regain full power.
“I hope my crash was enough for the whole team,” he said. “Physically I feel that body needs to recover and it’s working for that. When you’re riding on your limit it’s really hard to hang on and you feel that you
don’t have the full power yet.”
Friday's stage to Saint-Amand-Montrond will also likely end in a bunch sprint, with Kittel and Cavendish going head to head, with Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) also expected to be fighting for victory.
The stage is an opportunity for Kittel to surpass his compatriot Erik Zabel’s Tour record. Zabel took three stages in the 1997 and 2001 editions of the race. Kittel could take win number four, further laying down a claim to fastest sprinter in the 2013 Tour de France.