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Kittel heads to the beach after stellar 2014

The 2014 season confirmed Marcel Kittel's standing as top sprinter in the world, highlighted by his four stage wins at the Tour

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If you spot a tall, blonde German haunting the beaches of Ko Phi-Phi or somewhere else in Southeast Asia, it could well be Marcel Kittel.

The 26-year-old Giant-Shimano star is heading to a beach “somewhere in Asia” to unplug and disconnect, at least for a few weeks, after another spectacular season in the sprints.

“I will not touch my bike for at least three weeks. I will be somewhere on the beach,” Kittel told VeloNews. “Your body needs a break, but also your mind. You need to think about something else other than bike racing. I will go somewhere in Asia.”

If 2013 was the season of revelation for Kittel, then 2014 was confirmation.

Not only did he win two stages in the Giro d’Italia, giving him stage victories in all three grand tours, but he also backed up his phenomenal 2013 Tour, equaling his haul of four stage victories and the yellow jersey.

“I am very happy with this season,” Kittel continued. “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’s 13-win season featured quality wins, including a defense at GP Scheldeprijs and final-day victories on the Champs-Élysées in Paris at the end of the Tour, and in London, at the conclusion of the Tour of Britain.

There were a few hiccups, including no victories at Tirreno-Adriatico on a challenging course that did not suit him. Also, his early exit from the Giro with fever in the fourth stage left many wondering how many more he could have won if he had stayed healthy.

Other rivals won more, including André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), who won 16 races throughout the season, or Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who won 14, but Kittel’s consistency served as confirmation that his 2013 breakout season wasn’t a fluke.

Giant-Shimano teammate John Degenkolb said that Kittel was even better in 2014 than he was last year.

“I know this year he was even stronger than last year. Even in the Giro, when Marcel was there, [FDJ’s Nacer] Bouhanni was there, you have your answer. Marcel is way better than everyone,” Degenkolb said. “No one expected him to win four stages last year in the Tour. When you get the first kick and you have the first win, it gets easier. You have the confidence, and things go smooth.”

Degenkolb has a front-row seat to Kittel’s impressive finish-line accelerations, loyally serving as a member of the leadout train on stages that suit the pure sprinters. Degenkolb said Kittel can climb better than people give him credit for, something that some consider a handicap for the big German when he someday targets the green points jersey at the Tour.

“Marcel was good on the climbs this year. He never had problems to make the time cuts,” Degenkolb continued. “It depends how [many] pure sprints there are, he needs a Tour that suits him, with many flat stages. If there are too many hilly stages, it’s harder for him, but that’s better for me.”

For 2015, Degenkolb and Kittel will continue to work hand-in-hand, with the flatter stages going for Kittel, and Degenkolb getting his shot at hillier terrain and the northern classics.

Kittel will be aiming for more stage victories, more yellow jerseys, and someday, he’d like to take aim at the green jersey.

Another goal will be the rainbow jersey. Kittel raced the team time trial event with Giant-Shimano, finishing eighth, but he told VeloNews the rainbow jersey is certainly on his radar.

“In the future, I would really like to make the worlds a goal for me,” Kittel said. “Copenhagen was good [Kittel was 176th in 2011], to get a bit of experience in my career. But since then, there have not been any courses that are good for me. I think in the coming years we might have some worlds that will be good for me. Maybe Qatar. And not just me, but my teammate John Degenkolb, he will be world champion one day I am sure.”

But don’t ask Kittel now about anything concerning the future. The only thing he wants to concentrate on is a beach, somewhere in Asia.

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