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Kittel leaves Quick-Step for Katusha

Sprint star Marcel Kittel will depart Belgian squad Quick-Step Floors and head to Katusha-Alpecin for 2018 and 2019, the Russian team announced on Wednesday.

The news comes one week after Quick-Step renewed its contract with up-and-coming sprinter Fernando Gaviria, and just days after Katusha’s sprinter Alexander Kristoff announced his plans to ride for team UAE in 2018.

“I am looking forward to racing with the team and especially with Tony [Martin] and some of the other German riders,” Kittel wrote on his personal website.

Kittel, 29, had an outstanding 2017 Tour de France, winning five stages last month and holding the sprinters’ green jersey for 12 days before being forced to withdraw from the race after a crash on the 17th stage in the Alps. The German ace said he made the move to Katusha in part because of Quick-Step’s dedication to Gaviria, who won four stages of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The 22-year-old Colombian will likely ride the 2018 Tour de France, which could put Quick-Step in a position to choose which sprinter to take.

Kittel said Quick-Step management could not guarantee that he—and not Gaviria—would be the team sprinter for the Tour de France.

“The team management could not give me a definite answer and I can understand that,” Kittel said. “After Fernando Gaviria won four stages of the Giro, he will of course also want to be at the start of the Tour.”

The move to Katusha is a logical one for the German sprinter. The Russian squad has a German co-sponsor in Alpecin, and its roster already includes multiple German riders, such as Tony Martin, Rick Zabel, Nils Politt, and Marco Haller. Those four riders also feature prominently in the team’s sprint train.

“I look forward to the new challenge and—especially great—a totally German team for the sprints,” Kittel wrote.

Co-sponsor Alpecin makes hair care products, including a line of caffeinated shampoo. Kittel, who sports a vertical blond coif hairstyle, has the description “I love speed, sprinting, and hair” in his Twitter bio.

Kittel thanked his previous employers for helping him recover from a virus that plagued him in 2015 and saw him miss that year’s Tour de France due to poor form.

“I got some great support over the last two years and was able to get back to my previous best after my horror year in 2015,” he added.

His five wins this year made him the most successful German stage winner in the world’s most prestigious bike race. Kittel will be linking up with Martin again after the pair raced together for the German-based Energie Team 10 years ago as juniors, while they also spent last season together at Quick-Step.

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