Marcel Kittel is expected to make his debut with Etixx-QuickStep at the Dubai Tour in early February before targeting sprints at Tirreno-Adriatico and riding Milan-San Remo, according to a report in Gazzetta dello Sport.
The German sprinter will also reportedly ride the Giro d'Italia in May as he looks to return to form that saw him win four stages in both the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Tour de France.
Kittel recently modelled the new dark blue 2016 Etixx-QuickStep race clothing. He joined the Belgian team after terminating his contract with Giant-Alpecin following a difficult 2015 season that was affected illness and non-selection for the Tour de France.
Kittel raced for just 39 days in the 2015. He started his season with a win in the pre-Tour Down Under People's Choice criterium but apparently picked up a virus in Australia and struggled at the Tour of Qatar. He did not race again until the Tour de Yorkshire in early May but struggled and failed to finish the opening stage. He attended a Giant-Alpecin training camp in the Sierra Nevada and rode the Ster ZLM Toer stage race in late June but the team opted not to select him for the Tour de France and their relationship deteriorated after that. He won the opening stage at the Tour de Pologne in August but it proved to be the only victory of the season.
When Mark Cavendish confirmed that he would not stay with Etixx-QuickStep, team manager Patrick Lefevere moved quickly to secure Kittel and later sealed a new sponsorship deal with German supermarket Lidl.
Kittel will be hoping to re discover the form that made him one of the most successful sprinters in the peloton in 2013 and 2014 and work to create a new lead out team with his Etixx-QuickStep teammates. He is expected to share sprinting duties with talented young Colombia Fernando Gaviria, who will also target the track at the Rio Olympics. Etixx-Quickstep has also signed former Lampre-Merida sprinter and leadout man Ariel Maximiliano Richeze.
"When the new season starts you're back to zero. That's how I see it with the team. Everything is a bit back to zero. You have to get to know the people, I have to get to know everyone there, we have to set up a plan, [get] everything so it fits together and we can be successful in that combination. That's the challenge for me,” he said in a recent interview.
"It's not easy to make everything perfect. But when I came to Skil-Shimano five years ago, I was also in a group of people where everything was new, and you have to get used to each other. I think Etixx-Quickstep showed that they can really handle a sprinter well and can build a team around him. That's the trust I have when I go there, and I think it will be successful."