What had promised to be an exciting Tour de France debut for young German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) turned into a horrible ride. One hour after leaving Rouen in the fifth stage of the Tour de France the German rider from Arnstadt abandoned the race. Kittel is the fourth rider to pull out of the three-week stage race in France.
Up-and-coming sprint machine Kittel was expected to provide a serious challenge to the current sprint protagonists of the Tour de France, Mark Cavendish (Sky) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). Last year Kittel showed off his sprinting abilities when he captured his first win in a grand tour, the seventh stage of the Vuelta d’España. He also won four stages in Dunkirk and four stages in the Tour of Poland. He concluded that season during his holiday with the win in the Curacao Classic.
This year Kittel has already captured seven wins, including two sprint victories in the Tour of Oman at the start of the season. Back in April he captured his first flowers at the classics, when he won the sprinters festival of the Scheldeprijs. And in the build-up to the Tour de France Kittel won two stages in the Ster ZLM Toer, beating Cavendish and Greipel.
Surprisingly, the 24 year-old Kittel was spotted at the back of the peloton during stage 2 on Monday. It transpired that he woke up that morning with stomach pains. The Argos-Shimano team hoped that stress was to blame and hoped he might get rid of that during the first stage that was destined to finish in a bunch sprint. Kittel didn’t improve and the team instead allowed leadout man Tom Veelers to do the sprint and the stand-in finished in fourth place behind Cavendish.
A medical check-up revealed that Kittel was dealing with a stomach bug. In order to be able to continue the race Kittel had to be able to keep eating properly, which he managed. Nevertheless, he didn’t improve radically and by Wednesday he informed the team that they couldn’t count on him. Veelers once again rode the sprint and this time he managed third place while Kittel also struggled with knee problems.
On Thursday Kittel was once again present at the start but despite the slow pace in the peloton he stepped off the bike after one hour of racing.