The Specialized store in Düsseldorf, near the banks of the Rhine river, housed the Quick-Step Floors Tour de France press conference, just two days before the start of the 104th edition. All nine riders selected for the race, which will set off from Germany for the fourth time in history and for the first time in three decades, attended the event, and talked about their ambitions ahead of the competition which since its inception back in 1903 kept growing until it became a career-defining race for every rider.
Among them, also one of the best German riders of the present generation, Marcel Kittel, who is making his fifth Tour de France appearance. Winner of nine races so far this season, the 29-year-old knows having the Grand Depart in his home country is a once in a lifetime opportunity, one which he hopes to enjoy to the max.
“I am very happy and proud to be in Germany and experience a Tour de France start in my home country. Cycling is popular here, I could see that again this morning, when I was on the bike and saw only happy faces. A lot of people are looking forward to have the Tour de France back in Germany, and we want to give fans reasons to be proud of us. Having the Grand Depart here is an important step for the German community and I hope everybody will have a great time”, said Kittel on Thursday afternoon.
After putting together a string of results since making his season debut at the Dubai Tour, in February, Kittel goes into the Tour de France as one of the riders to watch on the flat stages, where he’ll look to add to the nine stages he conquered at the previous participations.
Before that, Kittel – a two-time Junior World ITT Champion – will embark on a 14km stage against the clock which is set to kick off proceedings. On paper, the race should be fast, as it will take place over a pan-flat course, but the rain forecasted for Saturday could very well have a say in the final outcome.
“Hopefully, the weather will be by our side and allow the fans to enjoy the race, while at the same time making it safer for us. My goal for the ITT is to do my best; just go into the race and ride full gas once I roll down the ramp. I am confident and I’ll see once the stage will be over if my ride can influence the possibilities I have on the second stage. But my primary focus is on the flat stages of the Tour, where we hope to show the same good form and fantastic team spirit that carried us here since the start of the season”, the Quick-Step Floors rider concluded.