German powerhouse says great Quick-Step team atmosphere key to finding his form
German sprint star Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) has said he will need to regain his 2016 Giro d’Italia form for this year’s Tour de France if he is to regain his position at the head of its sprint hierarchy.
Last year’s Giro saw Kittel take two emphatic stage wins over a field that included compatriot André Greipel and Frenchman Arnaud Démare, and pull on the leader’s pink jersey before leaving the race to recover for the Tour.
But two months later his Tour got off to a bad start when he had to watch Mark Cavendish don yellow after the first stage — a big season goal for both men. Kittel did win a stage, pipping Bryan Coquard by a hair’s breadth in Limoges, but he never showed the dominant form that he did at the Tour in 2014.
“Yes, yes, I’ve thought about it,” he said when asked whether the apparent resurgence of Cavendish was at the forefront of his mind, “and my plan is to bring the sprint from the Giro to the Tour this year.”
The German will miss the Italian race this year to concentrate solely on the Tour de France. “My plan goes to the Tour,” he said, and insisted he’d be unlikely to ride the Vuelta a España too: “If I only do three days at the Tour I might go…”
Speaking at his team’s presentation in Belgium in early January, Kittel didn’t divulge quite how he plans to replicate his Giro form although he insisted he was feeling good for January and that the convivial atmosphere between riders at Quick-Step was a key to him finding his best legs.
“I had it at Giant too and it’s something I need for my own performance — an atmosphere of happy people. It means I can do my job as good as possible,” he said.
Team boss Patrick Lefevere has backed his charge to the hilt, deeming him a protected rider alongside fast-climbing Irish team-mate Dan Martin.
“I’m thankful for the trust of the team and I’m happy to pay that back with victories. That’s the goal,” said Kittel.