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Marcel Kittel to miss Tour de France

Giant-Alpecin sprinter not fully fit following virus - absence could hit Mark Cavendish's green jersey hopes...

Marcel Kittel, winner of the opening stage of the Tour de France in each of the past two years will not take part in this year’s race as he continues his recovery from a virus. The removal of one of his main rivals will boost Mark Cavendish's stage win chances - but could affect his bid to regain the green jersey.

The German’s absence from the start line in Utrecht a week on Saturday was confirmed by his Giant-Alpecin team today as it announced its line-up for the 102nd edition of the race.

Sprinting duties at the Netherlands-based team will now fall on Kittel’s compatriot John Degenkolb, winner of Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix this spring.

That in turn means a change in team tactics, which will now focus on the stages with tougher sprint finishes rather than the ones with a flatter profile which would have better suite Kittel.

The 27-year-old has won eight stages in the past two editions of the race, including opening-day victories on Corsica in 2013 and in Harriogate 12 months ago.

But this year he has been hampered by illness and while the team said he is making “good progress,” he is not at the level needed to ride the three-week race.

KIttel said: “Of course I am disappointed about not participating in the Tour de France this year. But I will have to look ahead and focus on new goals.”

Giant Alpecin coach Marc Reef said: “Our main goal will be for a stage win, and the team for this year’s Tour has a good chance to achieve this goal.

“Based on the team’s specific strengths, we already have some great opportunities for success in the first week and fully expect to achieve positive results throughout.”

The line-up has five Dutch riders starting the race on home soil – Tom Dumoulin, who is targeting the Stage 1 time trial in Utrecht, Roy Curvers, Ramon Sinkeldam, Koen de Kort and Albert Timmer.

They are joined by Degenkolb, fellow German Simon Geschke, 23-year-old Frenchman Warren Barguil, a former Tour d’Avenir winner making his Tour de France debut, and Austria’s Georg Preidler.

While Kittel’s absence removes perhaps Cavendish’s chief rival for stage wins in next month’s race, it may make it harder for the Etixx-Quickstep rider to regain the points jersey he won in 2011.

That’s because strong riders such as Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan, who has won it in the past three editions, will get the chance to take more points on flatter sprint stages with Kittel not racing, while also picking up points on tougher finishes.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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