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Kittel wants sprint success before targeting classics

German ace dreams of winning on Champs-Élysées

Marcel Kittel is big, badass and ambitious, but those ambitions don’t run over the cobblestones of the Belgian classics. At least not yet.

At just 23, Kittel (Project 1T4i) is coming off a breakout 2011 season with his eyes set on even bigger prizes this year.

While he will be racing a smattering of one-day races in the coming weeks, Kittel tells VeloNews that his immediate future lies in improving his talents in the mass sprints.

“Maybe my future will include the classics. Right now, I am going to do a few to get the experience for the future,” Kittel told VeloNews. “The most important thing for me is doing sprints and doing races with sprints in the end.”

Kittel will be part of his Project 1T4i squad’s lineup for this weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem. He’ll also race Three Days of De Panne and GP Scheldeprijs.

It’s part of a mid-term project to position Kittel as a possible contender in the sprint-friendly classics, something the German ace admits he’s intrigued by.

“It’s a period in Belgium that I am looking forward to. This will be the first time I’ve done these races; they might be for me in the future,” he said. “I do not know what will happen to me in four or five years. We will see.”

Kittel’s big, muscular build would make him a natural for the demands of the cobblestones, perhaps similar to how Tom Boonen transitioned from a sprinter to a classics specialist over the last five years.

Last year, he started Paris-Roubaix in what was his first taste of the pavé. He says he liked what he saw.

“I like the cobblestones. I enjoyed it for what it was. I like it, so I would like to do it again this year, but it doesn’t fit well into my schedule for the season, so I will skip it,” he said.

After Scheldeprijs, Kittel will take a short break from an active first part of the season that has included a stage win and a day in the leader’s jersey at his season debut at Etoile de Besseges in France.

He also won two stages at the Tour of Oman and was second at the Handzame Classic behind Francesco Chicchi (Omega Lotto-Quick Step) last week.

The team is waiting with its fingers crossed to get a wild-card invitation to race the Tour de France. A return to the Tour for the first time since 2009 would be a huge step for the former Skil-Shimano team that’s come a long way in just a few short seasons.

“I really hope that we get one. I would love to race the Tour his year,” he said. “From last year, just the progress in one year, there’s a big difference. The team and the staff and the riders are all moving in a good direction; it’s a nice experience.”

For 2012, Kittel says he’s focusing on improving his finish-line kick and gaining experience against tougher rivals in more important races.

“For me, the biggest goal this year is I want to be good in every sprint and try to get some big results,” he said. “I want to build on last year.”

Last year, Kittel won 17 races, including a stage at the Vuelta a España, four stages at the Tour of Poland and a stage and the overall at the Delta Tour Zeeland.

For Kittel, the future lies in the sprints. And he’s hoping to get a shot at the Tour this year.

“My dream win? I want to win on the Champs-Élysées,” he said. “I hope I can try this year.”