Marcel Kittel will test his condition and form this Sunday with Giant-Alpecin at the 1.1 Rund um Köln as he continues his comeback from an illness plagued start to the season. Although the 196.7km race features 11 classified climbs with an altitude gain of 2,336m, a sprint finish has commonly decided the outcome with Sam Bennett taking the honours in 2014.
Giant-Alpecin are confident of continuing its good run of top five results in recent years and will be backing Kittel and fellow sprinter Zico Waeytens should the race finish in a bunch sprint, however coach Aike Visbeek explained the team will come prepared for several different scenarios.
"Our goal is to try to win the race. It can be a hard race, depending on the conditions, and we should be prepared for anything. With Waeytens and Kittel we have two fast guys and a good chance if the race ends in a sprint, but in case of a hard race we will also have options with De Backer and van der Haar. We have a good mix of talent and experience, as De Backer will be our captain," said Visbeek.
Kittel's lead out man Tom Veelers has been named but is in doubt due to a lingering knee injury. Bert De Backer and Tom Stamsnijder will provide support throughout the race, as will will Lars van der Haar after his second place on stage 3 of the Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg last week. The 'breakaway killer' Cheng Ji joins the team having just completed the Giro d'Italia for the first time in his career.
Yet to announce whether he will start the Tour de France next month after his interrupted start to 2015, Kittel will use the Rund um Köln and five-day Ster ZLM Toer before making his final decision. Kittel has enjoyed just one victory so far in 2015, the pre-Tour Down Under People’s Choice Classic criterium, but will enter the race off the back of a three-week training block in Sierra Nevada with his team.
Giant-Alpecin for the Rund um Köln: Bert De Backer (Bel), Lars van der Haar (Ned), Cheng Ji (Chn), Marcel Kittel (Ger), Fredrik Ludvigsson (Swe), Tom Stamsnijder (Ned), Tom Veelers (Ned) and Zico Waeytens (Bel).