Kittel confirmed for Milan-San Remo debut

Marcel Kittel will make his Milan-San Remo debut on Saturday after he was named in the Katusha-Alpecin team for the race.

Kittel will be joined in the seven-man team by lead-out man Rick Zabel, Nils Politt, Maxim Belkov, José Gonçalves, Simon Spilak and Nathan Haas, who will give the team an option over the Cipressa and Poggio.

After an unsteady start to life on his new team, Kittel hit his stride at Tirreno-Adriatico, winning both bunch sprints. The German opened his account by beating Peter Sagan in Follonica on stage 2 and he again edged out the world champion to claim stage 6 in Fano on Monday.

A professional since 2011, Kittel has never participated in Milan-San Remo. At Giant-Shimano, Kittel’s fellow countryman John Degenkolb led the line at the Italian Monument, and won it in 2015. During Kittel’s two years at Quick-Step, Fernando Gaviria was the team’s designated sprinter for La Primavera.

Speaking on Monday before confirmation of his participation, Kittel was coy about what he could achieve on the Via Roma at the end of a race of almost 300 kilometres in length, insisting that his Milan-San Remo debut would be chiefly a learning experience.

"If we take the decision to go to Milan-San Remo then I want to go there to learn about the race because I have no clue as to what the race is going to be like," Kittel said. "I'll go there with the best intentions but I want a free role for the race. It's a very competitive field and it's hard to go there without experience."

Kittel’s will be the most noteworthy Milan-San Remo debut since Mark Cavendish lined up in 2009. The Manxman survived the Cipressa and Poggio to overhaul Heinrich Haussler in the sprint on the Lungomare Italo Calvino to claim victory.

"If you look to the last years it was always a group of all-rounders and that's also an evolution. It's going be very hard for a sprinter to be in the front," Kittel said.

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