Kittel kicks off season in Dubai Tour

Etixx-Quickstep without Richeze for sprint-friendly race

Marcel Kittel will make his debut with the Etixx-Quickstep team at the Dubai Tour, which begins on February 3. The four-stage race was won last year by Mark Cavendish, but he has since moved onto the Dimension Data team. Kittel hopes to continue his new team's winning tradition in the Middle East, and build on his own record in the race.

In the first year of the Dubai Tour, Kittel won three of the four stages, but finished sixth overall after coming 11th in the opening time trial. This year's race consists of four mostly flat road stages.

“I’m really happy to start the season, and I’m looking forward to this race. It will be a good opportunity for the team to see how the winter training went and to work together on the lead-out," Kittel said.

The lead-out train will not include Max Richeze, winner of the opening stage in Tour de San Luis. He is still recovering from a crash in the Argentinean race and will have further tests done on his left leg. Iljo Keisse takes his place in Dubai, joining Kittel, Tony Maritn, Matteo Trentin, Nikolas Maes, Julien Vermote, Fabio Sabatini and Lukasz Wisniowski. The team will be led by Brian Holm and Tom Steels.

Holm is looking forward to seeing what Kittel can do. “To be quite sincere, I can’t wait for the race to start," Holm said. "Dubai is going to be a new experience, considering we will be there with Marcel Kittel. It’s the first race for him with his new lead-out train, so we have to take it step by step to see how it develops. We have a fair chance to win a stage and we will definitely go for it, but without putting any pressure on the boys.”

2016 marks the third edition of the Dubai Tour. The first was won by American Taylor Phinney.

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