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Rumors spread like wildfire around the peloton. The latest making the rounds during the Vuelta a España? Marcel Kittel would leave Giant-Alpecin to join Etixx-Quick-Step for 2016.
On paper, the move makes sense. Etixx has the pockets to sign a hefty contract for Kittel, and current sprinter Mark Cavendish, whose contract is up, is reportedly exploring his options. There’s only one problem; Kittel already has a contract with Giant for 2016.
Speaking to VeloNews, Kittel’s agent Jorg Werner confirmed that his star client has no intentions of breaking that contract.
“Those are only rumors,” Werner told VeloNews. “He has a contract next year, and he is willing to finish that. Those are only rumors that he is leaving Giant.”
The 2015 season has been the most trying for Kittel since his breakout 2011 campaign, when he emerged as the peloton’s dominant sprinter, winning a combined eight stages during the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Tour de France.
In what he described as the most difficult season of his career, Kittel has only one UCI WorldTour victory in 2015, a stage at the Tour of Poland earlier this month. After missing out on all three grand tours this season, Kittel was dealt another blow Tuesday when the German national federation left him off its world championships team for Richmond for next month.
Werner, however, said Kittel was not expecting to be named to the 14-rider long-list revealed Tuesday.
“That’s not a big surprise. We saw what happened Sunday,” said Werner, referring to Kittel missing the winning selection at the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Germany. “He’s had a difficult year. He did not ride the Tour, and now other riders are nominated to race the worlds. That’s OK for him. Maybe the Richmond course would have been good for him, but we saw he needs more racing. He will not ride the worlds this year, but next year is a very good course for him in Qatar.”
So what exactly has thrown Kittel off the rails this season? Werner said his star client was zapped by a virus early in the season and he could never catch up. Kittel forced his training and simply dug himself a deeper hole.
“He got a virus in Australia [at the Santos Tour Down Under], and he was too ambitious in his comeback,” Werner explained. “He’s learned that when a sprinter is sick and tired, one must wait. That is not so easy for the head, but he has learned to handle the problem. It’s an important step in his career.”
Next season will be critically important for Kittel. Not only will he be under the gun to reconfirm his place within the sprinter hierarchy, he will have a sprinter-friendly worlds course in Qatar. And most important, he will be at the end of that contract that he promises to fulfill with Giant in 2016.
“He is taking the steps he needs to, and next year, we will see the Marcel Kittel from the past few years, with many sprint wins,” Werner said. “Next year, we will sit down at the table with the team [Giant], and see what happens for 2017. Right now, there is no reason to leave the team.”