Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) staked his claim for leadership of the German team at next month's World Championships road race in Doha by beating Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to win the GP de Fourmies on Sunday.
While Kittel was winning in northern France, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) – his chief rival for the leader's role in Qatar – was doing likewise on the opening stage of the Tour of Britain. Germany has qualified just six riders for the Worlds road race, and last month Greipel told the DPA news agency that he was not willing to ride in the service of another sprinter, though he was less inclined to discuss the matter at his post-stage press conference at Castle Douglas on Sunday.
"We can speak about the Tour of Britain. Not about the Worlds," the German said. "I can't make thoughts [on the selection] because it's not up to me."
Kittel was more forthcoming on the subject of the Worlds when he met the press after his victory in Fourmies, acknowledging that the competition for leadership of Jan Schaffrath and Andreas Klier's German team will be intense, with John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) also in the equation.
"It's a complicated situation. We have three sprinters at a high level and we'd all have a chance if we each played our own cards. But our quota of six riders means we can't allow ourselves to bring only sprinters to the start," Kittel said, according to L'Équipe.
Kittel was unperturbed by Greipel's reported assertion that he would not be willing to work for another sprinter in Qatar.
"That's normal, everybody tries to position himself," Kittel said. "I know that it will be decided from a sporting standpoint and that's why I had to win, to underline that I'm in the race for selection."
It seems likely that Germany will ultimately have to choose between Greipel and Kittel for the Worlds leadership spot, with Degenkolb set to be delegated to form part of the lead-out train. Kittel's Etixx-QuickStep teammate Tom Boonen, meanwhile, will be the key rider in the nine-man Belgian squad, and the 2005 world champion warned against the assumption that the race on October 16 will end in a bunch sprint.
"On a circuit like the one in Doha, the danger would be to have too many pure sprinters in the same national jersey," Boonen told L'Équipe. "You have to diversify the strategies and not put everything on a possible bunch sprint."
Boonen and Kittel complemented each other in the Etixx-QuickStep squad to enjoy a winning weekend, as the Belgian claimed victory in the Brussels Cycling Classic (formerly Paris-Brussels) on Saturday before riding in support of his teammate across the border in northern France the following day.
"I talked with Marcel and asked him if he's ok with me going for the sprint and he agreed. On top of that, he also helped me today, so chapeau to him!" Boonen said on Saturday. "This victory bodes well for the next races of the season and for the World Championships in Qatar."
Kittel, meanwhile, paid tribute to Boonen's efforts in helping him to victory in Fourmies on Sunday. "Racing twice in a weekend isn't easy, but I'm content with how things have panned out for me and the team," Kittel said. "After working for Tom yesterday, today it was my turn to go for the sprint and everything worked out as planned.
"My confidence is strong, the shape is there and I'm getting better and better with every race I do. This shows that I'm ready for the final part of the season."
Subscribe to the Cyclingnews podcast today!