Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and defending champion Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) will face off against each other at this month’s Ster ZLM Toer. The five-day race will be the last chance for the two Germans to do battle ahead of the Tour de France.
Another German, Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin), who won the final stage at the Giro d’Italia, will also join the sprint battle, along with Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling).
Kittel and Greipel have both enjoyed a short break since successful stints at the Giro d’Italia last month. Kittel won the early battle between the pair, claiming convincing victories in the first two sprint stages in the Netherlands. Following a strong performance in the short opening time trial, the victories were enough to put Kittel into the maglia rosa for a day before losing it upon the return to Italy.
Greipel didn’t fare so well in the first sprint stages in the Netherlands but came good after the first rest day, winning three stages in total. The 33-year-old didn’t have the best preparation for the Giro after breaking his ribs at the Volta ao Algarve. However, his victories, in particular his one on the lumpy stage 5 to Benevento, proved that he is going strong.
Kittel called it quits at the Giro ahead of the first long time trial, while Greipel continued for four more stages, but both will have had around a month off by the time the Ster ZLM Toer begins on June 15. This year’s race features three pan-flat stages - on the opening two days and then again on the final day. Stage 3 is the most challenging with six classified climbs, including an ascent of the Cauberg and an uphill finish. It and stage 4 will be better suited to the Classics riders such as Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra, who will line up with Kittel in the Etixx-QuickStep team.
Other confirmed starters include BMC’s Taylor Phinney, cyclo-cross world champion Wout Van Aert – who recently took a surprise victory ahead of Tony Martin in the Belgium Tour prologue – and Filippo Pozzato (Wilier Triestina-Southeast).
The Ster ZLM Toer will take place between June 15 and 19.