By Sophie Smith
German sprinter Marcel Kittel won't put a number on success at the Tour de France in which he has another opportunity to take stage honours tomorrow following a career-defining start.
The 25-year-old began the Tour with two goals being to win a stage and finish the event that has seen him celebrate a stint in both the maillot jaune and maillot vert after winning the flat Grand Depart in Corsica.
But Kittel has not since re-evaluated his aims - in terms of the number of potential victories - on the back of that maiden stage success.
"I do not think in numbers. I just try to concentrate on my work, on the sprint, on working with the team," Kittel told Cycling Weekly on the first rest day.
"If we have a chance, like tomorrow, then we'll give everything and in the end we have to see what the result is. But we don't have the pressure anymore and that makes it already much easier for us. We don't have to be so nervous anymore. We can concentrate on what we want to do in the final."
Kittel and co-leader at Argos-Shimano, John Degenkolb, survived the Pyrenean stages on the weekend and appeared in good spirits at a relaxed press conference in Saint-Nazaire today.
Both have been in the mix since the Grand Depart with a third and second place, respectively, in stages six and seven.
The Tour has thus far seen a more even sprint competition than previous years with Kittel, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) all at one a piece in flat or rolling stages. Each will have more than one opportunity this week as the Tour, apart from Wednesday's individual time-trial, doesn't return to hillier terrain until Saturday.
Stage 10 tomorrow is another for the pure sprinters and Kittel, who has 12 victories to his name so far this season, is set to have the full support of his team with a more versatile Degenkolb to try and capitalise on his own opportunities later in the week.
"When we look to the last years we've got more and more respect from other teams," said Kittel of his outfit that acquired a WorldTour licence for this year.
"I think we're just an accepted sprint team like Lotto is or like Quick Step is and that's also an achievement we can be really proud of. They pay credit to our success and the way we work, and we get it also back from the riders in the bunch."
Kittel has not finished a Grand Tour as a professional yet. He rode 12 stages of the Vuelta a Espana as a rookie pro in 2011 and was dogged by illness and forced to withdraw during the fifth stage of his Tour debut last year.
However, there is no reason to suggest the two-time Scheldeprijs champion will not meet his second starting goal. He could even supersede it with a bookend finish in Paris.
Koen de Kort, who has returned to good health having suffered from a fever in the opening stages, has noted his 1.89m tall team-mate is climbing well in the grupetto, which is a bonus given the Alps that need to be crossed on the way.
"He's climbing the best out the three big [pure] sprinters. He was easily the best out of Cavendish and Greipel the last two stages," de Kort noted of the Pyrenees. "So that makes me really hope he can survive the mountains later on and also do a good sprint in Paris.
"He's smart enough. He knows when to conserve energy and when to spend it."
Marcel Kittel wins opening stage of Tour de France
Marcel Kittel ready to continue winning streak at the Tour de France
Driver cleared of killing cyclist after claiming 'no recollection' of fatal crash
The crash occurred in 2018, with the jury's verdict delivered yesterday
By Ryan Dabbs •
Here are six riders moving down from the WorldTour in 2022
Some pretty big names will be taking the step down as more teams look to build to a WorldTour licence in the coming years
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •
Marcel Kittel reveals the power numbers and effort behind his most successful Tour de France years
Marcel Kittel has revealed some of the staggering power numbers behind his most successful Tour de France years in a new study.
By Alex Ballinger •
'You miss the big sprinters' : How absence of Cavendish & Kittel has changed the Tour de France sprints
Riders give their views on how Tour de France sprints change without two of the race's best ever sprinters
By Gregor Brown •
Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel eliminated from 2018 Tour de France after failing to make time cut on stage 11
Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel have been eliminated from the 2018 Tour de France after suffering and getting dropped on Wednesday's tough mountain stage.
By Henry Robertshaw •
Mark Cavendish scrapes through first Tour de France mountain stage as he finishes just 28 seconds inside time limit
Mark Cavendish and fellow sprinters Marcel Kittel and Dylan Groenewegen scraped through the first Tour de France mountain stage by the skin of their teeth.
By Henry Robertshaw •
Marcel Kittel: 'I’m not putting a big question mark over my future with Katusha'
The German says he's fully focused on turning his Tour de France fortunes around with the team despite being openly criticised by his sports director
By Richard Windsor •
Marcel Kittel hoping for change of fortunes as Tour de France winless run continues
Marcel Kittel is hoping for a change in fortune over the rest of the Tour de France after going winless over the first seven stages of the race so far.
By Paul Knott •
Five talking points from stage 17 of the Tour de France
Roglic takes it in style, Kittel breaks, Contador gives it one last throw of the dice and more talking points from stage 17 of the Tour de France
By Craig Cunningham •
Marcel Kittel abandons the 2017 Tour de France on stage 17
The green jersey wearer quits in the Alps after an early crash
By Richard Windsor •