“Unfortunately, I have to end my season now. In Berlin, I had myself thoroughly checked out, as I said I would. It is not so easy to find the cause for my bad feeling on the bike, unfortunately. Luckily, there is no virus involved, but it is clear that my body simply needs peace and quite right now.
“Since my crash in the Tour 2017, I have never really gotten the proper rest and there was always so much to do. Then all the training and races, which wear you out.”
In his first year with Team Katusha-Alpecin, the German sprinter has brought in only two wins, taking sprint victories in two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
In 2017, Kittel had 14 wins for Quick-Step Floors, including five Tour de France stages. He crashed on stage 17, whilst leading the points classification, and abandoned the race. His best result after that was fourth in the Münsterland Giro.
This year, he has struggled and has had to abandon a number of races, including leaving the Tour when he missed the time limit on stage 11 to La Rosiere. His best result at this year’s Tour was third place on the opening stage.
He also came in for criticism from DS Dimitri Konyshev, who said, “We pay him a lot of money but he is only interested in himself.” Kittel later denied rumours that he was looking to break his contract with the team for 2019, and seek a new deal.
He also noted the situation of German star track rider Kristina Vogel, who Friday announced that she was paralysed after a July training accident. “That is terrible, sad and unbelievable. When I think about it, it makes my problems seem so very small, and my frustration over my 2018 season seems laughable.”
Kittel called Vogel an inspiration. “She is so honest, open and direct about her problems, that I must once again say ‘unbelievable!’ What a strong woman! If she can show so much courage and optimism after such a tragic experience, then I can certainly forget 2018 quickly and go all out again in 2019. So: let’s do it like Kristina."