No Sanremo for weary Kittel

The German sprinter says he'll pass on racing the 291km classic after struggling in the cold and snow at Paris-Nice this week.

SALON-en-PROVENCE, France (VN) — The outside chance that Marcel Kittel might race Milano-Sanremo dissolved this week under the weight of a difficult and challenging Paris-Nice.

The Etixx – Quick-Step sprinter didn’t challenge for victory in three sprints plagued by cold and bad weather. So if he couldn’t survive the pace at Paris-Nice, there’s no way he could hang on for nearly 300 kilometers of racing that concludes with rides over the Cipressa and Poggio at the spring classics opener March 19.

“That’s a rumor,” Kittel told VeloNews on whether he might race Sanremo. “I stated my racing program, and I am staying with that.”

At the beginning of what’s a comeback year following his disastrous 2015 season, Kittel said he would not race Sanremo, and only committed to one spring classic at Scheldeprijs — a race he won three years in a row from 2012-14. After that, he’s slated to return to the Giro d’Italia and, later, the Tour de France.

After showing up to the start of the season looking trimmer than ever, however, speculation grew that he might finally race what’s long considered the “sprinter’s classic.” Kittel racked up four stage wins plus the overall at the Dubai Tour, prompting team officials to consider slotting Kittel into Sanremo. Earlier this week, Etixx officials said the final selection on the team’s Sanremo squad would be made after Tirreno-Adriatico, and confirmed there was a chance Kittel would start.

That hope fell apart this week. The big German struggled in Paris-Nice, failing to arrive with the bunch to challenge the likes of Michael Matthews of Orica – GreenEdge or Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis for victory. Tough finishing circuits, late climbs, and brutal weather that forced the cancelation of stage 3 all conspired against Kittel.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but the weather has not been very nice,” Kittel said. “Now I will prepare for my next objectives.”

Kittel, 27, was hoping to at least challenge for victory in Thursday’s undulating stage, but he was dropped on a late climb and eventually finished 125th at more than four minutes behind winner Bouhanni.

On his Twitter account, Kittel wrote he was not satisfied with how Thursday’s stage unfolded.