Marcel Kittel: I'm 100 percent with Katusha-Alpecin in 2019

German sprinter reacts to team-internal criticism

Marcel Kittel has denied rumours that he might be leaving Katusha-Alpecin after just one year, saying: “I will 100 percent ride for Katusha.”

The German sprinter, who left the Tour de France after missing the time cut on Stage 11 to La Rosiere, failed to win a stage at the race, after winning five stages in 2017.

Kittel had been criticised by his directeur sportif Dimitri Konyshev, who called Kittel “egotistical”, saying “We pay him a lot of money but he is only interested in himself.”

Although Kittel’s contract runs until the end of 2019, it has been reported that he wanted to leave the team early. However he told Sport1.de, however, that he would be staying with the team, and the problems were being cleared up.

“Just because someone has an opinion of me which I don’t like doesn’t mean to me the world is ending. Ok, the way it is communicated is another matter. People can have different opinions, but it should all be done within the team.

“In the end it is an individual opinion, I am not going to hold it against the whole team. Afterwards I had good discussions with the other guys in the team, that is important to me. I believe that we have straightened up things between us.”

Kittel finished in the top five in the bunch sprints on stages 1 and 4, but a mechanical problem took him out of the mix on stage 2. Not feeling well on stage 7, he let lead-out man Rick Zabel take over. Adding to his dissatisfaction, Kittel was said to be unhappy with the point at which he was dropped by his teammates during the stage 3 TTT.

He left the race after finishing out of the time limit on stage 11, along with fellow sprinter Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).

Kittel received support from team manager Jose Azevedo, who told Cyclingnews, “We need to continue to work, it’s the only thing that we can do. For sure, things will turn around because Marcel is a great rider.”

“Extreme” Alpine stages too much for the sprinters

Other top sprinters, including Andre Greipel, Dylan Groenewegen and Fernando Gaviria, are also out of the race, and Kittel puts the blame on “the extreme stages in the Alps.”

When such good climbing sprinters as Greipel leave the race in the mountains, “that is a call out to the race organizer. It is not just the fault of the athletes, but also of the difficulty of the stages.”

"The problem is that the ASO “always wants to try something new, to bring in new action. This year it was very, very hard. I assume that the Tour learns from such things. I don’t think that the ASO is interested in eliminating all the sprinters. Maybe they just underestimated the combination. In the end, the riders make the race.”

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