German sprinter Marcel Kittel will be looking to win at least one stage at this week's Paris-Nice, which is the rider's "first real objective" of this season. The 23-year-old Project 1t4i rider has already added three additional victories to his stunning palmarès of 17 wins in his first season as a pro last year, and is looking forward to testing himself more against the world elite of sprinting throughout this season.
Having beaten Mark Cavendish (Sky) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) at the Tour of Oman, Kittel now knows that he has arrived at the very top. "My two victories in Oman have given me a lot of confidence," he told Velochrono. "It's a good sign for the next races. To win against the best sprinters has made me very happy and proud. I was also perfectly supported by my team - I think that step by step, we have built one of the best sprinters' teams."
Kittel, who started out as a professional only last year, still keeps cool about his success. "Of course, everybody looks at me differently now. I'm not a nobody anymore. But I'm not the kind to put pressure on myself now, telling myself 'I absolutely need to win' or that kind of thing. It's surely an advantage. I just tell myself that what really matters is to do my best at the races, and not have any regrets at the finish - whatever the outcome.
"Of course, I want to go as high as possible. It's a big objective for me, but like I said, I don't put myself under pressure. I take things one at a time."
The German explained that while Paris-Nice was his first goal this year, his fellow countryman John Degenkolb would probably be the team's leader at Milano-Sanremo on March 17. "We have a lot of good riders for this race and I think it will probably be John Degenkolb who will be there as team leader," he continued. "Normally I should be racing the Volta a Catalunya, but it's possible that I do the Three Days of De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem instead. And my big objective this season is the Tour de France, if we get invited."
While it appears that his link to Dr. Andreas Franke, currently under investigation in Germany, is not interfering with his ability for success, Kittel said that he "still thought about it. It wasn't easy. But I was able to prove straight away that I had nothing to do with it, as I haven't seen this doctor since 2008. I saw him then because it was compulsory [Franke was the official doctor of several sports federations - ed.]. He was highly recommendable at the time, he was approved by the Olympic Committee, so why shouldn't I have trusted him? Now, they say that he doped some people..."