Giant-Alpecin hope that Marcel Kittel will be able to return to racing for the Tour de Yorkshire next month. Kittel was meant to be riding Scheldeprijs this Wednesday, where he has won the last three editions, but pulled out earlier this week due to illness. It is the third consecutive race that Kittel has pulled out of but the team denied that the latest setback would disrupt his preparation for the Tour de France in July.
“At the moment it’s not the case that we don’t think that it is possible for the Tour de France but if it continues like this then maybe,” said Giant-Alpecin directeur sportif Rudi Kemna. “Our next plan is recon training for the Tour de France at the end of April and in the beginning of May the plan is that he goes to Yorkshire, but it is just a plan and we want to work towards that.”
Following Yorkshire, the team plan to send Kittel to the Tour of California before an altitude training camp. His final race ahead of the Tour de France will be the ZLM Toer, which begins on June 17. In the hope that Kittel will be able to recover in time for the Tour de France, the team are heading to the Netherlands at the end of April to look at stage two and will also investigate the cobbled stage from Seraing to Cambrai.
Kittel has only completed two races this season and has been out of action since the Tour of Qatar in February. The illness means that Kittel has only taken one victory in 2015, the People’s Choice Classic ahead of the Tour Down Under. He was due to start Tirreno-Adriatico but decided not to start, stating that he hadn’t recovered fully from a virus he’d picked up earlier in the year.
“Marcel started at the Tour Down Under, more or less from the beginning he had a good start and a good winter but after that race he was a little bit sick, just a little bit,” said Kemna. “We thought that he could do Qatar. Qatar was a difficult race for him but it was the beginning of the season and he had full motivation to go for results. After that, he was more or less falling down.”
Since falling ill, Kittel has been unable to train properly feeling drastically better or worse from day to day, explained Kemna. “He’s training but not on a programme and he cannot do it every day. It’s a little bit up and down how he is feeling. He’s in training but not what we would normally like and he’s not ready for races… He doesn’t feel comfortable to do full training and that’s a shit thing when you can’t do the training that you want.
The team have been trying to establish what exactly has been affecting the German powerhouse but, for now, they are in the dark. “We don’t know for sure (what it is). We’ve checked the blood and we cannot put a finger on it and say that it is it. We have no clear thing that it is,” said Kemna. “They are working on tests but it’s not a special thing that we are waiting for a big test or a result for a test.”
Kittel was Giant-Alpecin’s most successful rider in 2014, taking 13 victories throughout the whole season and losing him for a large part of the early season is a blow for the team. “Marcel Kittel is an important rider for us, that’s clear and he brings us a lot of success, together with the whole team, but Marcel is the sprinter and he is important.”