Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) has said that he will continue to battle for full fitness after his latest setback. Kittel was making his first racing appearance since February at the Tour de Yorkshire on Friday but abandoned on the opening day, after he was dropped with around 70 kilometres to go.
“I think we all know now that this wasn't the best comeback of the year 2015. ;) But I won't give up,” he joked on Twitter following his stage one abandon. “Yorkshire came maybe too early but… I'll fight back & get fitter. Honestly, cycling is more fun if you can make the others suffer & not the other way around. :P”
Kittel has had a challenging start to the year, following a disappointing performance at the Tour Down Under where he fell ill. He was nursed through the Tour of Qatar a month later but was out of action ever since, pulling out of a number of races including Tirreno-Adriatico and Scheldeprijs. Last month the team said that they were not worried about Kittel’s preparation for the Tour de France but this setback must have elicited some mutters of concern from the top brass at Giant-Alpecin.
“Unfortunately we were unable to play a major role in today’s stage. It was a really hard stage. From the second climb it was full gas to the finish and not surprisingly that wasn’t beneficial for Marcel,” explained Giant-Alpecin coach Marc Reef. “Of course we knew that Marcel was still far from his best shape and due to the high pace he was forced to abandon the race. For now, we stick to the plan that we have with Marcel and we continue to work towards his next goals.”
Kittel’s next race is due to be the Tour of California, where he is set to go up against sprinting rival Mark Cavendish. After a difficult 2014, Cavendish has been on form of late taking seven victories this season, including the opening two stages of the Tour of Turkey - where the Manxman is currently racing. If Kittel is well enough to race in California, it will be the first time that the pair have gone head to head in 2015.
Without Kittel, Giant-Alpecin must re-think their strategy for the final two stages of the Tour de Yorkshire. “Most of our riders come from either a rest period or a period of hard training, so we have to take that into account,” said Reef.