Calling it “the most difficult time of my career,” sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) will miss the Tour de France because of what his team calls a lack of fitness stemming from a virus that knocked him out of most of the season to date.
Kittel won four stages in each of the last two editions of the Tour, and he was expected to lead Giant in the bunch sprints in the upcoming race that kicks off July 4 in Utrecht, Netherlands.
A press release from Giant, however, confirmed that Kittel will sit this one out.
“Of course I am disappointed about not participating in the Tour de France this year,” Kittel said in the release. “But I will have to look ahead and focus on new goals.”
The release says “good progress has been made” in Kittel getting back up to top form, but his “basic fitness is still not sufficient to compete in the Tour de France.”
Giant will work with Kittel to come up with “an alternative racing program” for the fall.
Kittel posted a statement on his personal website and wrote he did “everything possible the last few weeks to get back in shape again.”
“The team is uncertain as to how long my form would hold at the Tour,” Kittel wrote. “But then again, nobody knows what would have happened if I would have started. There are several good chances for sprinters at the Tour.
“Now I must live with this decision. Hopefully I will find new goals for the remainder of the season. At this point, however, I don’t really know how to make up for this disappointment. I am still too busy coping with the effects of this decision. Of course I want to show again this year what I can do. It’s just that the Tour is always so important.”
Later in the statement, Kittel wrote, “Not being nominated is without doubt the most difficult time of my career. The forced pause this spring was already not easy. Although there were times I wanted to just throw in the towel, I tried to stay strong and find a way. This is just another blow to me, that I didn’t earn my team’s trust for a Tour nomination. It is not a good situation but on the other hand, instructive. I will learn to cope with it and thereby I will also grow.”
As for Giant’s Tour lineup, the team is bringing a mix of sprinters (John Degenkolb) lead-out men (Koen de Kort and Albert Timmer), and climbers (Warren Barguil and Georg Preidler).
“Our main goal will be for a stage win, and the team for this year’s Tour has a good chance to achieve this goal,” Giant coach Marc Reef said. “Based on the team’s specific strengths, we already have some great opportunities for success in the first week and fully expect to achieve positive results throughout.”
Giant-Alpecin for the Tour de France
Warren Barguil (FRA)
Roy Curvers (NED)
John Degenkolb (GER)
Tom Dumoulin (NED)
Simon Geschke (GER)
Koen de Kort (NED)
Georg Preidler (AUT)
Ramon Sinkeldam (NED)
Albert Timmer (NED)