FOLLONICA, Italy (VN) — Katusha-Alpecin’s Marcel Kittel, on the heels of winning Tirreno-Adriatico’s second stage, said that he could finally line up for the first time in Milano-Sanremo.
Kittel won in Katusha-Alpecin’s red colors for the first time on Thursday along the Tuscan coast. The German joined Katusha this season after two years with Quick-Step Floors.
The change of teams also brings a chance that the 29-year-old German, 14-time Tour de France stage winner, will ride Milano-Sanremo this March 17.
“The plan is to decide after Tirreno-Adriatico,” Kittel said. “If I go to Milano-Sanremo, then for me it’s a free role, no expectations, because the team has other leaders.
“I’ve never done it and I’d really like to do it at a good moment, but it depends on my condition. But if I go, I go to get to know this race, to see what it’s like.”
Alongside Kittel, Kautsha-Alepcin will likely also take Nathan Hass and Simon Spilak to attack on the roads leading to Sanremo.
Kittel has racked up 87 victories. In the last five years, he developed into a super sprinter. He has worn the famous Tour de France yellow jersey twice thanks to winning the opening stages.
German Erik Zabel won Milano-Sanremo four times. Mario Cipollini, Alessandro Petacchi, and Oscar Freire won it. Current sprint great, Mark Cavendish won it in his debut in 2009. Oddly, Kittel has never lined up in the monument most adapted to the fast finishers.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know what this race is like,” Kittel said. “That’s why I’d be happy to go there and with free role and see the race to get a decision for myself. To see if I’m a rider for this race. I believe I can have a chance, but I know I need experience.”
Argos-Shimano (now Sunweb), where Kittel got his start as a pro, had John Degenkolb, who was better suited for the climbs and could still pack a punch for the sprint. Degenkolb won the race in 2015.
“It was a decision of give and take. John and I are both very motivated riders. We had goals and in the same team,” Kittel said.
“We had to split up the race calendar, it was fine for me to say I have no ambitions classics and Milano-Sanremo, but I wanted support for Tour de France. So was totally fine with that decision.”
Team Quick-Step, also had its riders better suited for Milano-Sanremo, like Julian Alaphilippe and Fernando Gaviria, and it instead gave Kittel full support for the Tour de France. Katusha, however, is giving him the green light to try to haul his big body over the climbs and sprint.
“I think a sprinter should be at the start of that race once in his life,” Kittel added. “I think it’s a nice dream for me.”
Kittel will have more space to dream with his first win today in Follonica. He survived a late crash and the team clicked. He topped world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), and Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) on the finishing straight. Of note, Kwiatkowski won the 2017 Milano-Sanremo by edging out Sagan.
“I think it’s normal when you come into a new group and new team you have to get used to it, it doesn’t happen in eight weeks over the winter,” Kittel said.
“We used the time in Dubai and Abu Dhabi work on our lead out. In theory, it’s one thing. Seeing how it works in a race is another. It takes time and we needed time to focus. Today is a nice step forward.”