Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) confirmed he is the best form of his career after taking his fourth sprint victory at this year’s Tour de France in Bergerac and strengthening his lead in the green jersey points competition.
Kittel again came from behind in the sprint on stage 10, again opting for the open space on the road, and using other sprinters as his late lead-out men while his rivals fought for position along the barriers. Kittel came past Britain’s Dan McClay (Fortuneo-Oscaro) with 220 metres to go and then touched almost 70km/h with a final acceleration before celebrating yet again.
“I think I can say I’m the strongest Marcel ever, I’ve never felt better, I’m in very good condition,” Kittel said taking his first win while wearing the green jersey in this year’s Tour de France.
He has now won 13 stages at the Tour de France, one more than Erik Zabel, making him the most successful German stage winner.
“Of course it means something for me. Even if I don’t see cycling from that point of view, it’s not about being legendary, or a VIP person in history. I just want to do what I do best: sprinting. I love being on the bike here and enjoying this huge event,” Kittel explained.
“I never expected it, when I was starting my career I never really expected to be in the Tour. I was hoping maybe at one point to become a professional, but that I would be at this level with these wins, it’s hard for me to imagine. I feel like I’m living in a small little bubble in a small little world that isn’t really true.
“You can see the way were sprinting and the confidence we have, it’s something special and also nice to experience that during my career. It gives me more confidence to know that I worked in a good way, the planning worked out and that I came fresh to the race.”
Kittel now leads the points competition by 102 points. He has a total of 275 points after scoring 50 at the finish in Bergerac and 13 at the intermediate sprint. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) is second with 173 points, with Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) third on 150 and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) on 140 points.
Kittel likes racing in the green jersey but refused any suggestion that he has the competition stitched up.
“No. For me, I think it’s very important to take it day by day and focus on getting points at intermediate sprints and at the end of stages. Even on stage 20 or 21 something can go wrong,” he said.
“I prefer to act as if I don’t have green on my shoulders. As we saw with the GC guys, the race can be over very quickly.”
“I don’t think the green jersey classification is decided. You can be unlucky, you can get sick like Démare did, you can destroy everything that happened before. Michael [Matthews] is going to be my main opponent and André [Greipel] and Alexander [Kristoff] are looking for points too. I’ll look out for those first of all.”
Kittel has no answer when Matthews goes on the attack in hilly stages to chase points in the intermediate sprints. His plan is to simply keep on winning.
“Michael was in a big break on Sunday, he survived two HC climbs and won the sprint. There’s nothing I can do then,” Kittel admitted.
“I have to do my work now on flat stages and hope that it’s enough.”