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Kittel confirms split with Giant-Alpecin

After five years with Giant-Alpecin, Marcel Kittel will leave the team after a tumultuous season.

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Marcel Kittel will part ways with Giant-Alpecin, the team confirmed Friday.

The German sprinter, who has been with the team since 2011, leaves with one year remaining on his contract citing a wish to make a “fresh start after a physically and mentally difficult year,” he said.

Belgian daily Het Niuewsblad reported this week that Kittel will head to Etixx-Quick-Step, which is losing its sprinter, Mark Cavendish, to Dimension Data.

“I knew it would not be easy to make it happen this late in the season, but fortunately I expect to be able to find a suitable team, where I will race for the next few seasons. I am looking forward to it,” Kittel said.

Kittel, 27, came down with a virus at the Santos Tour Down Under in January and struggled to recover. He attempted to return to racing multiple times throughout the season, but saw little success and was not included in the team’s Tour de France squad.

“I very much appreciate that Team Giant-Alpecin placed my personal wishes above the concern of losing a rider so late in the season and that it was receptive to my request to try and find a new team, which is something quite rare in the hard world of elite sports,” Kittel said.

Kittel’s results helped build Giant-Alpecin from its Pro Continental roots as Skil-Shimano. He confirmed his place in the pantheon of the world’s best sprinters when he won four stages and wore the yellow jersey at the 2014 Tour de France, bringing his total to eight Tour stage victories. He also won two editions of the sprinter’s classic Scheldeprijs and two stages of the Giro d’Italia.

“Marcel has meant a lot to the team and has been a great ambassador for us,” said Iwan Spekenbrink, Giant-Alpecin’s CEO. “Marcel is a great athlete and it will be good for the sport of cycling, for the fans and, most importantly, for Marcel himself if he can produce great sprints again next season, which was an additional argument to respond favorably to his request.”

The team retains sprinter John Degenkolb, and will continue to build a sprint train around him. But the revelatory rides of Warren Barguil at the Tour de France and Tom Dumoulin at the Vuelta a España will begin to turn the team away from a pure sprint and classics focus. “We already have a great grand tour team, and they will support Warren and me even more next year,” Dumoulin said prior to the world championships last week.

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