Kittel coy over yellow jersey chances

Marcel Kittel (Getty)
Marcel Kittel (Getty)

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 each day. 

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 say." 

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.

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