Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) will return to racing at the Tour de Yorkshire on Friday following an extended period away from racing due to sickness.
The German sprinter’s recovery from a virus was slower than expected, resulting in a quiet, nearly race-free start to his season. Kittel was forced to pull out of Tirreno-Adriatico in early March and has not raced since. He missed the chance to add a fourth Scheldeprijs victory to his palmares as team doctors kept him sidelined during his recovery.
Kittel’s only win this year came at the People’s Choice Classic, a 51-kilometer warmup race for the Santos Tour Down Under. He notched 13 wins in 2014, including four Tour de France stages.
The three-day Tour de Yorkshire will cover much of the same terrain used by the Tour de France when it visited the region last summer. Kittel raced well there, taking victory and the yellow jersey in the first stage. He also won the third stage into London.
“It will be Kittel’s first race back, so we need to give him the opportunity to find his race rhythm again,” Giant coach Marc Reef said.
Giant will have a diverse squad for the race. Bert De Backer, Tom Stamsnijder, and Ramon Sinkeldam will take care of Kittel in the sprints, while Americans Caleb Fairly and Lawson Craddock, both fresh off the Ardennes classics, will be given room to test their climbing legs.
It will be the first UCI WorldTour stage race for Giant’s cyclocross star Lars van de Haar, who has been testing his legs on the road this season.
The team is not bringing along Kittel’s usual sprint train, suggesting that though he may try to contest in the sprints, the primary goal is to get him accustomed to race pace.
“At first glance the stages seem relatively flat, but from last year’s Tour we know that they include some difficult categorized as well as uncategorized hills. We will start with a diverse team and aim for good stage results,” Reef said.