Sabatini: I'm surprised how focused Kittel already is

Italian looking forward to refining the Etixx-QuickStep sprint train

Marcel Kittel's motivation was called into question at various points during his sorry 2015 campaign, but Fabio Sabatini, a member of his new leadout train at Etixx-QuickStep, has allayed fears of that continuing into 2016.

Kittel, who had won eight Tour de France stages in two years and looked to be cementing himself as the dominant force in sprinting, was off-colour throughout an illness-plagued 2015, in which he won just twice - at the People's Choice Classic and the Tour de Pologne. With a year still left on his contract at Giant-Alpecin, the 27-year-old made a shock move to Etixx-QuickStep in October, replacing the outbound Mark Cavendish.

The German has just linked up with his new teammates for a pre-season camp in Calpe, Spain, and Sabatini was impressed with what he saw.

"We have only spent 10 days together, at the first training camp, but I already see someone of very strong character," said the Italian in an Q&A with the Tuttobici website.

"You can see he wants to redeem himself after a bad season. He is really motivated and cannot wait to start racing. I was surprised to see him in training already so focused and driven. I thought, 'if that's how he is in December, who knows how he'll be when it comes to racing?'"

Sabatini, who has endured a tough couple of seasons with a back injury and subsequent surgery, explained how he and his teammates, including new signing Maximiliano Richeze, are working to create a well-drilled unit around their new leader. They will first race together in 2016 at the Tour de San Luis, ahead of the Dubai Tour in February.

"I will practically always be racing with Kittel – I'm part of his group," said Sabatini. "Maximiliano Richeze will also be pulling in the sprints along with our Belgian teammates. We're all 1m 90cm tall, we have the quality and the power, we just need to refine the mechanisms of the train so we're able to show off his quality."

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