Kittel pulls out of Tirreno-Adriatico with virus

The Giant-Alpecin sprinter is still recovering from a virus he picked up after the Tour Down Under

Sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) will not make his planned start at Tirreno-Adriatico this week due to a virus.

Kittel picked up the virus prior to the Tour of Qatar and has been unable to shake it.

“After the Tour Down Under I was hit with a virus and I actually never 100 percent recovered afterwards,” he said. “I felt good enough to start the Tour of Qatar but during the race I started to feel worse and worse so with the team’s guidance we decided to step off the bike for a while.”

Kittel has been unable to train properly since Qatar, where he did not contest any of the five available sprint stages. The loss of training time has undoubtedly set him back, and the goal of contesting Tirreno’s sprints had to be set aside in favor of a long-term approach to recovery.

“It was a very busy preparation time for me towards the first races and together with the virus and overreaching I am forced to rest now,” Kittel said.

“I should be back on the bike again soon but at the moment I still have to take it easy; the next step is to start building the training again and work towards my next goals this season. Of course I am disappointed, but my health and getting back into shape is the first priority now. There’s still a long season ahead of us.”

The sprint stages at Tirreno were a target of Kittel’s program, according to a team release. The sprinter will work with the team’s medical and performance staff to make a thoughtful — albeit likely slow — return to training and racing.

“Marcel has never fully recovered from the virus that he picked up in the midst of a busy pre-season, and since then he has not been able to reach his normal performance level,” said team physician Anko Boelens. “Marcel was extensively examined and thankfully no major underlying health issues were discovered.”

Kittel is scheduled to start Ghent-Wevelgem on March 29 and Scheldeprijs, where he is a three-time winner, on April 4.

Kittel is the second high-profile rider to withdraw from the Italian stage race, as 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Sky) pulled out on Monday with a chest infection.