Liege - Marcel Kittel admitted he doesn't feel confident
about his yellow jersey chances ahead of Monday's lumpy third stage in the Tour
de France from Verviers to Longwy.
The big German moved up to third in the overall standings
with victory in Sunday's second stage, thanks to the 10-second time bonus he
claimed on the line.
If he manages to keep up with the leaders on Monday's uphill
finish at the end of the 212.5 kilometre third stage, he would then have
another flat stage on Tuesday likely to finish in a bunch sprint.
He's just six seconds off race leader Geraint Thomas, with
time bonuses of 10sec, 6sec and 4sec on the line for the top three finishers
But Kittel isn't counting his chickens.
"I think this is going to be difficult... because the
finish is quite difficult," said the German.
"It's similar to the second stage last year (in which
the pure sprinters were dropped).
"I will see, I don't know. It's hard for me now here to
Kittel stressed, though, that the yellow jersey was not his
priority, with his Quick-Step team looking for stage victories and him
personally having an eye on claiming the green points jersey -- although there
is the not so small matter of trying to beat five-time winner and world
champion Peter Sagan in that category.
The course looks very much like one of the Ardennes one-day
classics, particularly with the short 1.4 km climb to the finish with an
average gradient of 5.8 percent, peaking at 11 percent in one section.
That should be enough to ensure that the pure sprinters have
been dropped before the line, although the bumpy nature of the course, with
five categorised climbs, might have shed some of them long before the finale.
It's the kind of course that should have Sagan and Olympic
champion Greg van Avermaet licking their lips.
But plenty of others will also be eying a stage victory, not
least the Ardennes Classics specialists such as Australian Michael Matthews,
Ireland's Dan Martin and Belgium's Philippe Gilbert.
The overall contenders will also likely be keen to keep near
the front as there is a chance for small time gaps to appear by the line.
If Thomas struggles at the finish, which is unlikely, the
yellow jersey could come into play, although his Sky team-mate Michal
Kwiatkowski of Poland or team leader Chris Froome are two of the best placed
riders to capitalise.