German sprinter Marcel Kittel and Giant-Alpecin have both announced that the rider’s contract has been nullified and that he is free to sign for another team in 2016. Although no announcement about a new team has been made, it’s expected that the sprinter will ride for Etixx-QuickStep. However, the Belgian team quickly moved to deny that the rider has already signed with them when contacted by Cyclingnews today.
Both Kittel and Giant-Alpecin released statements this evening, confirming at the very least that the sprinter, who won four stages at last year’s Tour de France, would be leaving the team. He had one year remaining on his existing deal but Kittel expressed his desire for the contract to be torn up, with the team willing to allow him to leave.
“The German sprinter recently indicated to the team’s management that he wished to make a fresh start," the team said in today's announcement. "Kittel wishes to get the difficult 2015 season behind him and achieve new goals in new surroundings, rather than doing so in the improvement-driven elite sports environment of Team Giant-Alpecin.”
Kittel has endured a hugely disappointing season this year, with just a handful of wins compared to his hauls in previous seasons. He has been plagued by injuries and illness, and despite several comebacks throughout the season was left out of this year’s Tour de France team. That, and a constant struggle for form left the sprinter believing that his career needed a fresh start.
“Marcel has meant a lot to the team and has been a great ambassador for us. Therefore, we immediately decided to respond positively to his request and release him from his contract. His request came very late in the season, but nevertheless he looks able to find and join a suitable team, which makes it realistic to actually release him. Marcel is a great athlete and it will be good for the sport of cycling, for the fans and, most importantly, for Marcel himself if he can produce great sprints again next season, which was an additional argument to respond favorably to his request,” said Giant-Alpecin CEO Iwan Spekenbrink.
On his own website, and minutes before the official announcement was made by Giant-Alpecin, Kittel posted a message confirming the news.
"In addition to my personal experiences I have also realized that Team Giant Alpecin has changed and wants to go in a new direction," he wrote. "The focus on the GC brings of course a new direction to how the team is composed. For me as a pure sprinter there comes the question, of whether my ambitions will be given enough room. In the end, we were not able to agree on the definition of our goals. I haver therefore decided to change teams.”
"I look back thankfully to a successful time, in which both the team and I grew together. We celebrated some great wins. I could give the team management the yellow jersey at the Tour de France twice and eight stage wins. I especially want to thank the riders with whom I have celebrated these successes and who selflessly worked for me. Thank you! That was something great and something special, the way we all got along. I enjoyed being underway with you all. True friendships have come out of it.
In the team's own statement, Spekenbrink concluded: “We want to thank Marcel for the great contribution he has made to the team since 2011. We really enjoyed his sprinting talent and the unforgettable moments we shared together, and we will continue to be proud of the sprints he will deliver in the future, as he will always be a ‘product of our school.’ We wish Marcel all the best in his future career.”