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Does lightning strike twice? Twelve months after he took the unofficial sprinters’ world championships on the Champs Élysées, Marcel Kittel is hoping to thunder to a second consecutive victory in Paris on Sunday.
The German showed he was the top sprinter in world cycling in last year’s Tour when he won four stages, including that last sprint in the French capital.
This time round, he’s clocked up three wins. He has a chance to equal last year’s total on Sunday, but needs things to go just right for himself and his team. Several squads are yet to take a stage victory in the Tour and it is certain that there will be constant attacking on the streets of Paris.
“I will concentrate now on tomorrow,” the German said Saturday, speaking to a group of reporters after he completed the penultimate day time trial. “I know from last year how nice it is. It is a big goal for every sprinter. There is a lot of competition tomorrow. We need a good plan and we have to concentrate one more time and it is over.”
One of Kittel’s biggest rivals crashed out on the opening stage. Mark Cavendish’s departure means that a rider who won four years in a row on the Champs Élysées won’t be in contention. However there are plenty of others who have the speed to complicate things for Kittel’s Giant Shimano team.
“Kristoff, Greipel, Sagan…also Demare and Coquard,” he stated, when asked to name who the biggest concerns were. “There are a lot of good sprinters here. We will see what happens tomorrow.”
“For me, it [the final sprint] was the big motivation to make it through the mountains. I am really happy to be here now, to finally go to Paris tomorrow and to do that one last sprint.”
Kittel’s success last year saw him triumph ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). His successes this year came earlier in the race, with victories on stages one, three and four.
Since then other sprinters have triumphed, with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) taking two stages and Andre Greipel grabbing one. Kittel has only once finished in the top 12 on a stage since his day four victory; he was 11th into Nîmes six days ago.
Because of that, it is not certain he’s still in the same sprinting shape as he was at the start of the race, but he’s determined to show that is indeed the case on Sunday.
“Everything that we will do now is to concentrate on the sprint,” he said. However he played down the notion that he feels like he must equal his four stage wins of last year. “For sure we are not under pressure at all.
“We won three stages here in the Tour de France. We have two second places with Johnny. Hopefully Tom Dumoulin can do a good result in the time trial today.”
Still, even if he says he isn’t under pressure, it’s also clear that he wants to win. “It is a dream that comes true,” he said, describing the sensations of being the quickest rider on the most famous road in the world. “I am really, really motivated to be there one more time tomorrow. It is already an amazing feeling just to ride on the Champs Elysees.”