Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.
Like most of the sprints Marcel Kittel won this season, our award for Best Sprinter of the Year was never in doubt.
Kittel was show stopping in 2014, snagging 13 wins in all, including four stages at the Tour de France and two at the Giro d’Italia. His win total isn’t staggering —André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) won 16 times — but the venues in which he performed flawlessly are at the apex of the sport. If you can win at the Tour, you can win anywhere.
Kittel went from the challenger to the sprint king in one short year. And if there had been any doubt, Kittel’s 2014 Tour de France confirmed his place as the sprinter’s man to beat. It was the second consecutive year in which he took four stages, and the second year in a row that he won on the sprinter’s most hallowed ground: the Champs-Élysées.
“I am very happy with this season,” Kittel said. “There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but the team supported me 100 percent. We are working together better than ever. We understand each other. We are more motivated than ever to do the sprints.”
Kittel wore the yellow jersey for the second year running, and now has eight stage wins in the last two Tours, more than any other true sprinter.
“He managed to get above himself,” Giant-Shimano manager Iwan Spekenbrink told VeloNews.
“Marcel is a sprinter. For a sprinter, second is the first loser. And so they have that tension that you have to cope with. And in the end he wants to win, badly.”
The handsome sprinter with the movie-star hair (and aviator shades) fits the bill physically, without question. But in interviews, he lacks that infamous edge most sprinters possess. He is fairly quiet, and fairly humble. In short, he’s easy to root for.
After winning the opening stage of the Tour and pulling on a yellow jersey, he spoke of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who crashed on the roads of his mother’s hometown, desperate for a victory.
“It was not a goal for me to beat Mark Cavendish in his hometown, in his home country. For me it was all about winning the first stage of the Tour de France,” Kittel said. “You never like to see your competitors crash, and I hope Mark is okay, and he can race tomorrow.”
Cavendish didn’t race that “tomorrow,” but both men will be back next season. Now, however, it will be Cavendish looking to reclaim the throne from the new sprint king.
“My goals won’t change regarding my future, especially in the Tour de France. I’d like to go for stage wins,” Kittel said after the Tour ended. “I’m not focusing on records.”
Giant-Shimano’s Kirsten Wild is, without a doubt, one of the purest sprinters in the women’s peloton. With years of experience racing on the track, the Dutch sprinting ace has been, and continues to be, the most powerful closer in the sport.
Compiling well over a dozen wins and countless other top finishes in 2014, Wild took three stages at the Tour of Qatar and two at the Tour of Chongming Island, winning the overall titles at both races. She also went on to win two stages at both the Energiewacht Tour and La Route de France, along with victories at Ronde van Gelderland and the Novilon EDR Cup.
Wild was narrowly beaten by countrywomen, Marianne Vos, at La Course by Le Tour in July, but was otherwise a dominant force throughout 2014.