Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) believes Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) is “the next big superstar in sprinting” after watching the German claim his third stage of the 100th Tour de France.
Kittel beat Cavendish in a one-on-one drag race to win stage 12, coming around the Manx Missile to add to his victories on stages one and ten by half-a-wheel.
And Cavendish, a 24-time stage winner at the Tour de France, admits he was beaten by the better man in Tours.
“You can sit there and analyse it, but when there is someone simply faster than you, there is nothing you can do,” said Cavendish. “I don’t think me, or the team, could have done anything differently. He was just simply better.
“I tweeted the other day I think he’s the next big thing. I think he’s the next superstar in sprinting and he showed it. He’s won three stages now and that’s not easy. I can tell you that from experience.”
Cavendish has endured a tumultuous Tour to date, missing out on the yellow jersey on stage one after being caught behind a crash, winning stage five, being accused of reckless sprinting after Kittel’s leadout man, Tom Veelers, hit the deck on stage ten, and subsequently having urine thrown at him by a spectator on stage 11.
But Cavendish is not ready to give up his title as sprint king just yet, despite being delivered to the finish in a perfect position by his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mates on stage 12.
“My team were incredible,” said Cavendish. “We analysed the finish beforehand. In the last few days I think we’ve been a little to eager, which is kind of a good thing because it means you’ve got the commitment from everybody.
“But ultimately we always ran out of guys. So [on stage 12] we talked about staying calm and staying patient and going at the last moment. The guys were a lot more comfortable and it made my job a lot easier. I’m just really disappointed I couldn’t finish it off for them.”