Kittel: It has been a long road to return to this level

It has been three years since Marcel Kittel last won more than one stage of the Tour de France. Kittel enjoyed two bumper seasons in 2013 and '14 with four stages apiece. But, a tough 2015, where he missed the race altogether, was followed by a comparatively lean 2016, where his one and only success was a photo finish victory ahead of Bryan Coquard.

The Quick-Step Floors rider has now racked up his second victory in the opening week of racing, both in convincing style, and looks to be the dominant sprinter that he was three and four years ago.

"It was a long road to be back on that level," said Kittel. "I think that a career is always up and down. Of course, the moment when it is going good is always nicer than when it is not so good. In the end, what counts is that I can fight to come back to this moment, this level and to these victories. It means a lot to me."

"Failure is success if we learn from it," Malcolm Forbes, the founder of Forbes Magazine, once said. Aside from its convincing nature, what has been notable about Kittel's sprints at this year's race is how far back he has come to take them. Kittel attributed, in part, his success from this year as an extension of last year's Tour de France.

"For me, when you look at the sprints from last year, quite a few times I was a little bit early, and I got overtaken by Mark Cavendish. I guess that shows how important it is to make sure that you keep the right timing," said Kittel. "It's not just about pure team power, but riding smart and being up front in the right wheel at the right time. That maybe also makes the difference between a good and a very good sprinter.

"I don't take it for granted. I'm very happy that I'm in good condition at the moment and that I get the right support and I can get the victories in this way. "

Kittel's victory moves him ever closer to the putting back on the green jersey he took after his stage 2 win. He started the day 40 points behind the classification leader Arnaud Demare, and while the Frenchman took second behind him in the sprint, Kittel has closed the gap to 27 points. It sets up a potentially exciting tussle between the two for top honours in Paris. For now, points are not the priority, but stage wins. Although, the two go hand in hand.

"We will see. I think the situation is different to the last years, that's for sure," Kittel referred to the expulsion of Peter Sagan after stage 4. "I said already that I will only focus on stage wins for now, because that's also where you score the big points that are very important for the green jersey classification. In a few days or a week then we will see how the classification looks like. I won't give up, I have it in my focus, but I'm not pushing for it at all costs at the moment.

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.