Marcel Kittel will lead the Giant-Shimano team at the Tour de France this July. The Dutch team announced their long-list, stating that Kittel and his fellow German John Degenkolb were certain of a Tour start.
Kittel won four stages of last year’s race. He claimed yellow on the opening stage to Bastia and ended Mark Cavendish’s (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) run of victories on the Champs Élysées. He was in dominating form at the Giro d'Italia, winning the opening two sprint stages. He abandoned ahead of stage four, suffering from a cold. He hasn't raced since then, but will ride the Ster ZLM Toer, which begins on Wednesday. The German is taking things as they come, in terms of victories.
“The goal for both the team and I is the same, to win a stage and go from there,” said Kittel. “Winning a stage is already a big goal and just because of the success we had last year doesn’t mean it will come easily.
“Coming into this race with two sprinters gives us options in the fast sprints as well as the power sprints. I am very excited to get the Tour started now.”
Degenkolb is currently riding the Tour de Suisse. The 25-year-old has had one of his strongest seasons yet, with second place at Paris-Roubaix and pushing Cavendish hard at the Tour of California. He will give the team an option on the tougher sprint stages, as well as helping out in the lead-out train for Kittel.
The main focus of the team will be the sprints, with Koen de Kort, Tom Dumoulin, Tom Veelers and Nikias Arndt, who recently took a stage win at the Critérium du Dauphiné, all making it onto the long list. One glaring omission is Warren Barguil, who won two stages of the Vuelta a España last season. Barguil hinted earlier this month that he was unlikely to make the cut and the team confirmed it today.
“With Warren we have designed a path to help him develop in the best possible way to become a rider who will be ready to compete for the general classification,” said team manager Iwan Spekenbrink.
“It’s that process and the long-term plan which counts. Fine-tuned teamwork is also key when competing for the GC and so the same goes for a group of other young and talented riders whom we will support to grow together with Warren so that they can compete as a united team in Grand Tours over the coming years.”
Barguil will return to the Vuelta this August.
Giant-Shimano long-list for the Tour de France: Nikias Arndt (Ger), Roy Curvers (Ned), Bert De Backer (Bel), John Degenkolb (Ger), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Tom Dumoulin (Ned), Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger), Simon Geschke (Ger), Cheng Ji (Chn), Marcel Kittel (Ger), Koen De Kort (Ned), Albert Timmer (Ned), Tom Veelers (Ned).
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