Dutchman Koen de Kort is hopeful his Argos-Shimano team can contest a sprint at the Tour de France this week with its leader Marcel Kittel starting to recover from a stomach bug.
Race debutant Kittel was named as a man to beat in the flat finishes this year but has so far not been able to play a hand.
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The 24-year-old fell ill before the start of yesterday’s second stage to Tournai, which Mark Cavendish (Sky) won from Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), and was consequently not in the mix.
Kittel was dropped in today’s undulating 197km run to Boulogne-sur-Mer but is starting to come good with around three flat stages for the pure sprinters remaining this week.
“He’s got a really sore stomach, had diarrhoea and I think he was vomiting,” de Kort said.
“He didn’t eat much at all yesterday but this morning he was able to eat normally and he said in the race he felt pretty good again. I think he should be alright for tomorrow, maybe not top fit but he’s getting back into it now.
“When you get a bug, and you’re so empty one day, you’re not going to be perfect two days later but he’ll be back for maybe the last sprint stage this first week.”
The Vuelta a Espana stage winner Kittel may be a Tour debutant but his more learned rivals have taken note of his talent and seven race victories this season. Cavendish, Greipel and Goss were among those that determined the German sprinter as a threat to their respective winning chances pre-event.
De Kort said his teammate was handling the pressure of competing on cycling’s biggest stage for the first time well.
“He doesn’t seem more nervous than he usually is,” de Kort said. “I think he’s quite used to having the pressure of the whole team working for him. He actually thrives on it.”
De Kort injured his hand in a heavy pile-up with about 30km to go in today’s crash-marred third stage.
Tomorrow’s fourth stage is one of the longest of the Tour at 214.5km. The race from Abbeville to Rouen is another for the sprinters and coastal winds along the route are likely to play a factor.
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