UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — German team Giant-Alpecin insists that star sprinter Marcel Kittel will still be wearing its black and blue kit next year despite his disappointment at missing the Tour de France.
Kittel, 27, has not hidden his feelings since being overlooked for the Giant Tour squad as his season has been affected by illness.
Having won four stages in each of the previous two editions of the Grand Boucle, Kittel expected to be part of Giant’s Tour selection this time around, but his team decided he wasn’t fit enough.
It led to suggestions there would be a rupture in the thus-far highly profitable relationship between team and star, but Giant-Alpecin coach Christian Guiberteau insisted they would continue together.
“For any rider, the ultimate aim is to be at the Tour. If he hadn’t been disappointed, I’d have been disappointed in him,” said the Frenchman.
“It was a very difficult choice for the sports direction team, very tough, especially for a rider that has brought us so much success and advanced the team through his results.
“It was a painful decision, but the reality is he was ill, he took a long time to come back, and he’s disappointed, but that’s normal.
“Of course Marcel [Kittel] will still be with us next year, everyone would like to have a great sprinter like him, but it’s true, it’s very difficult for him not to be at the Tour.
“But from the team’s perspective, there are no doubts for the future.”
Guiberteau also claimed that without Kittel, the team would actually have more opportunities to win stages, although those would be spread out across a number of riders.
“With Marcel, believe me, it would have been very difficult to win four stages with the profile of the course. You can see the profiles exactly.
“Along the Norman coast you can have breaks in the peloton; also from the second stage with the wind, there can be break, and you don’t have a sprint.
“So with John [Degenkolb] in Le Havre there’s a difficult finish with a tough climb. It would have been tough for Marcel to arrive at the sprint so already, there are just two chances for Marcel: the second stage and the [final stage on the] Champs-Élysées. Maybe another, it depends on the circumstances of the race.
“It’s not like last year and six sure chances [for a sprint finish].”
Degenkolb, who won both Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo — two of the most prestigious one-day classics — earlier this year, will have a lot of expectations on his shoulders, but Guiberteau believes several stages suit him.
“He gets over short climbs; he’s a sprinter with great classics qualities — he’s becoming a classics specialist.
“With him you have chances in a classics-style sprint. Also, when there are climbs and also on the cobbles obviously.
“Then we have other options. Two years ago, we were a young team with Marcel [Kittel] but now there’s Tom [Dumoulin] who is becoming a reference in the time trials and Warren Barguil has already shown he can win grand tour stages in the high mountains at the Vuelta [in 2013].
“Simon Geshke can get in breakaways. We have more chances but with different guys.”