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German sprinting ace believes he is back to his best twelve months after being left out of the Tour de France.

Photo: Sirotti

MARCEL KITTEL

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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STER ZLM TOUR

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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20.06.2016 @ 09:32 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

A year ago, Marcel Kittel went to the Ster ZLM Toer hoping to prove to his then employer, Giant-Alpecin, that he was good enough to be included in their Tour de France team after battling viruses that undermined his form for months. However, his mission failed and he did not manage to prove to the team’s management that he was ready for the Tour. Accordingly, he was excluded from their Tour line-up.

 

Fast forward to June 2016 and Marcel Kittel finds himself in an entirely different position. Speaking to Cyclingnews on the eve of the Ster ZLM Toer, the German is in new team colours and looks invigorated. Ten wins, including two at the Giro d’Italia for Etixx-Quickstep, lie at the heart of Kittel’s new-found optimism.

 

“Things have changed massively since I came to this race last year. Back then my form wasn’t good and there were all kinds of questions hanging over me,” Kittel said. “It couldn’t be any more different coming back here this year. But it is what it is, and I’m happy that we’re a year on from that time and that the situation is very different and definitely a lot better than last time. It’s good to have my focus back on what I’d like it to be on, which is what is coming up at the Tour and especially in the sprints.”

 

The race on Dutch soil is Kittel’s first outing since he withdrew from the Giro ahead of stage nine, the Chianti time trial, due to fatigue. Following a month out of competition, Kittel has returned with his focus on fine-tuning his form before the Tour, which begins in less than two weeks. He is adamant that he is not thinking about July too much, but is savouring his return to the sport’s biggest race, which begins with a stage to Utah Beach which may well end with a bunch sprint that will see the winner don the yellow jersey.

 

“It doesn’t occupy my thoughts too much at the moment, but I know it’s not far away now and I am thinking about it, but not daily and certainly not every hour or second,” he said. “I do have my objectives for the Tour. I definitely know about the first stage and I want to be good on that day. However, like every previous year, I’ll start the Tour and just see how it goes, take it day by day. Of course, the first stage is very important, but it’s not the end of the Tour de France.”

 

If Kittel was in a dejected mood a year ago, his spirits are much more optimistic and positive now. He believes the move to Etixx-QuickStep has refreshed him. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ve done an incredible job in the races that we’ve done together. We weren’t only strong, but we were smart as well, which is a very important point for me,” he explained. “The successes we’ve had have provided a great base to work from and from which to target even more success.”

 

Once the Tour has been completed, and Kittel is not likely to abandon the French grand tour easily, Kittel and many other sprinters will set their sights on the Worlds in Qatar, where the course will certainly suit them. However, Kittel was reluctant to go into any discussions on how the German team might tackle it with André Greipel and John Degenkolb also likely to be strong contenders.

 

“We’ll have to see about the Worlds. I won’t engage in any discussion about them until the Tour is over,” he insisted. “The Tour’s the race that will show once again who the fastest guy is, especially over three weeks. So far I think I’ve got every reason to be relaxed and looked forward to what is my next goal.”

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