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LA CLAYETTE, France (VN) — German duo John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel will lead Argos-Shimano’s sprint train in the Tour de France next month. The roster is yet to be announced, but the two provide the strongest chance for the budding Dutch team.
Despite Degenkolb puncturing at the end of Wednesday’s Critérium du Dauphiné stage to La Clayette, it’s been a good year for the duo. Kittel won two stages in the Tour of Oman, a stage in the Three Days of De Panne and the prized sprinters’ event, the Scheldeprijs. Degenkolb did his part, pulling in wins like the overall and two stages in the Tour de Picardie. The Tour is next.
“It’s really possible to win a stage there, especially for [Kittel] in the first days in the big mass sprints. He’s one of the fastest guys in the peloton,” Degenkolb told VeloNews. “If we are a bit lucky and get a good day, then for sure [it is] possible to win a stage.”
The 23-year-old joined the team over the winter from HTC-Highroad. Last year, he had his chances working for Mark Cavendish. In the Vuelta a España, after Cavendish abandoned, Degenkolb sprinted to second place in stage 12, behind Slovakian phenom, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
The Dutch team raced as Skil-Shimano last year, started this year as Project 1t4i and announced new oil sponsor, Argos, on March 30. The team is only second division, but caught the organizer’s eye and earned a wildcard spot to race the Tour de France.
“We showed already that we’re a pretty good team and we can make the step next year to the WorldTour. It’s great to be a part of that,” Degenkolb added.
“It was a good decision for me. I have no pressure and I have space to develop. I think I’ve improved already from last year.”
Degenkolb appeared on most journalists’ radars when he took the bronze medal in the under-23 world championships in Varese, Italy, in 2008. Last year, in his first professional season, he scored two big ones early into the season, with stage 2 and 4 wins in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
He placed fifth in Milano-San Remo in his first participation this year and hopes for better in the Tour. He’ll likely lend a hand to Kittel, who’s proven to be quickest so far. Degenkolb could also have his chance, like when Cavendish abandoned the Vuelta last year.
“I’m part of the leadout. I think the last man will be Tom Veelers. Tom’s incredible, like a TGV train. You have to stay on his wheel, and if he accelerates, no one can pass you. He’s really a good boy.”
A Tour win would almost certainly put the team on the right path towards a WorldTour licence for next year. It’d be the ticket to ride for Degenkolb and Kittel, putting them in all the top races and giving them even more chances to win the big ones.