Professional Continental squad Skil-Shimano is gearing up in view of next season. The Dutch team, whose name will change to Project 1t4i in 2012, has most promintenly recruited HTC-Highroad sprinter John Degenkolb to form a powerful duo with fellow German Marcel Kittel. The two fast men will head a team whose new sponsor, a European multinational company, is to reveal itself in March next spring.
French directeur sportif Christian Guiberteau, who has been with the outfit for one year now, told Velochrono that both sprinters as well as the new financial backer will be valuable assets to the squad on its possible way to World Tour status in 2013. "We are very happy to have them both," he said of the two new emerging German stars.
"They can work together very well, on the same races, it's an asset to have them both more than anything else. Of course, we will have to define race programmes according to the invitations we'll receive, and they do have two different profiles: slightly uphill finishes are more suited to Degenkolb."
Guiberteau also revealed that the team will have an increased budget next year, providing greater stability and ease for everyone. "Next year, whatever happens, we'll have money," he assured. "A European multinational company will come with a more important budget, so this will of course change some things. We will be more comfortable with regards to the budget, even if I don't know the exact amount yet. But 2011 has been a prospect year for us, in terms of our results and the arrival of this new partner. They want to reveal their identity in March."
Neo pro Kittel has been one of the revelations of the season, showing outstanding finishing speed first at the Four Days of Dunkirk, then confirming them at the Tour of Poland and finally topping it off with a stage victory at the Vuelta a Espana. Surprisingly, Guiberteau revealed that the 23-year-old had turned to the sprint only this year. "He was actually signed for his qualities as a rouleur. But we quickly understood that he had sprinting qualities when we saw him lead out the sprints in the first races of the season. We gave him a chance, and then he just went from confirmation to confirmation throughout the year," the French DS said.
Both Kittel and Degenkolb, who will join Project 1t4i next season, initially come from the Thüringer Energie team and Guiberteau thought that roles had been well-defined during that time. "There was a leader in the sprint, Degenkolb. Kittel was always appointed to the time trial. It was natural: he didn't even question it himself. But once you become a pro, you don't necessarily keep the same profile as in the amateur ranks. Of course, it's great news for us, and we hope that he will confirm his talent."