Emerging German sprinter Marcel Kittel is prepping for a battle royale against British world champion Mark Cavendish at this year's Tour de France.
The 24-year-old headlines the Pro Continental Argos-Shimano squad that is largely based around the second-year professional, who has extended his contract with the outfit until 2014.
Kittel has bested some of the world's best sprinters this season, including Cavendish (Sky) at last week's Ster ZLM Toer, with his stage win tally at seven before the Tour. He was one of the most celebrated neo-professionals last season notching some 17 stage wins including one at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Scheldeprijs champion will have the support of compatriots Johannes Fröhlinger, Patrick Gretsch as well as Frenchmen Yann Huguet and Matthieu Sprick and Dutchmen Tom Veelers, Koen de Kort, Albert Timmer and Roy Curvers at the June 30 to July 22 Grand Tour.
"I go to France to challenge Cavendish," Kittel said in a team statement. "I look forward to fighting him. He is currently the best sprinter of the world."
Argos-Shimano aims to win a stage whether that is via Kittel or an opportunist. De Kort has been part of Kittel's lead-out train this season but has himself been consistent with top 10 finishes at the Tour of California, Tour of Luxembourg and the Ster ZLM Toer.
"Our team has a world-class sprint train and with Marcel Kittel we have a young sprinter, who in the Tour will explore his possibilities at the highest level," team co-manager Sissy van Alebeek said.
Argos-Shimano team for 2012 Tour de France: Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Patrick Gretsch (GER), Marcel Kittel (GER), Yann Huguet (FRA), Matthieu Sprick (FRA), Tom Veelers (NED), Koen de Kort (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Roy Curvers (NED).
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