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Kittel not nervous, says, ‘It’s still February’

German sprinter Marcel Kittel has yet to win in 2018, while most of his rivals have, but he isn't worried yet.

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — German sprinter Marcel Kittel says he isn’t bothered yet by rivals’ wins and his lack of them, so far in 2018.

Katusha-Alpecin’s new sprinter has yet to score for his team in 2018, while most all of the other top sprinters, from Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) to Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), have given their team’s wins.

“When I look at my watch, it’s still February and we still have seven months of the season to go and 70 race days,” Kittel said. “There are many chances to go for victories.

“This is a development. We are taking time for ourselves and this is very important. I enjoy the process although sometimes it’s disappointing. But we want to develop our leadout to the world’s best.”

Sprint winners already include Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

After racing the Dubai Tour and the first two stages of the Abu Dhabi Tour, the 14-time Tour de France stage winner first looked capable of victory in stage three at Al Marina. He started late and surged quickly up the right and appeared to win. However, it was not to be, as Phil Bauhaus (Sunweb) held him from his first of 2018.

Kittel still celebrated as if it was a win when the judges were analyzing the photo-finish. “Win or second place,” he told his teammates, “you did a great job today.

“It’s a successful small step, but it was just too late,” Kittel continued to journalists in the late afternoon sun along the shore. “It’s just unfortunate, but we will still have a beer tonight.”

Kittel rode with iterations of the Team Sunweb program for five years before switching to Quick-Step Floors in 2016. Besides his stage wins, he wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France twice by beating the best at their top fitness.

This winter, teams shuffled the decks. Kittel went to Katusha-Alpecin with Elia Viviani joining Quick-Step Floors from Sky. Katusha had space with Alexander Kristoff signing for UAE Team Emirates.

“It sounds always easy,” Kittel said. “A good sprinter like [me] and a leadout train from Katusha-Alpecin, and now you just have to ride together and we are going to win a million races this year, but that’s not how it works.

“We have to find a way to work together. Since we started in Dubai, we were getting better every day. You don’t always see results, but today we were at the point where we can say it’s progress and we can be proud of that.

“The team is motivated every day. I have huge respect for the boys. You want to go for the win and almost every time, it’s a defeat, but you have to get up and go again at the next chance. That’s what we are doing.”

Kittel now looks to Europe for his next chance at victory. The Abu Dhabi Tour continues with a time trial Saturday and a summit stage on Sunday, not days for the German-powerhouse sprinter.

Next up for Kittel, is Paris-Nice in mid-March and he may finally match his rivals and open his 2018 account.