MILAN (VN) — One super sprinter out, another in. Belgian team Etixx-Quick-Step has officially replaced Brit Mark Cavendish, who joined Dimension Data last week, with German Marcel Kittel.
The tall blond, who won four stages and wore the yellow jersey in both of the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Tour de France, has jumped from Giant-Alpecin to Etixx, it was announced Monday morning.
The writing had been on the wall as far back as when the German UCI WorldTeam left Kittel off its 2015 Tour de France roster following an early season slowed by a virus. It became official Monday via an Etixx press release announcing a two-year deal that starts in 2016.
“In the last years he showed incredible pure speed, which makes him one of the best sprinters in the history of the sport,” Etixx general manager Patrick Lefevere said in the release.
“As a team we will do our best to put him in the right condition, building a group of riders around him. He showed his potential in just a few years time, with dominating performances among his palmarès. We are sure that, together, we can achieve more big goals, and that we have yet to see the best of Marcel Kittel.”
And with the 27-year-old Kittel, Lefevere has his “Cav” killer.
Cavendish won 26 Tour stages over the last eight years, but he has showed signs that he may be weakening, with fewer wins in the last two seasons. After a long delay to announce his new team, Cavendish signed with MTN-Qhubeka last week, which will race as Dimension Data in 2016.
Cavendish gave Etixx 34 wins over the last three years, but Kittel will be the next super sprinter the squad relies on for victories. He could do so in head-to-head matchups with Cavendish, keeping Lefevere on top and delivering a double-blow to his outgoing star.
They could race against each other as early as February at the the Tour of Qatar. Kittel did not speak directly about racing against Cavendish, but he did address starting a “new chapter.”
“I want to thank the team for the faith they’ve put in me, and that they will support me in this new chapter of my career,” said Kittel, who worked out a deal with Giant to break his contract in order to defect to Etixx.
“This team has one of the best, well organized structures around its riders. I can continue to develop and improve.”
Financial details about Kittel’s contact were not disclosed.