Argos-Shimano director sportif Rudi Kemna deserves a place in cycling, according to one of his riders,, Marcel Kittel. Kemna recently admitted to using EPO during his career and will serve an agreed six-month suspension before returning to team duties.
Kittel has voiced his opinion in the past regarding supporters of Lance Armstrong however, the sprinter believes Kemna's story is an important one for people to understand. It's this type of experience that Kemna was exposed to, that has the potential to help the sport move forward.
"When they told us the story, of course in the beginning I was disappointed to hear it and also surprised," said Kittel to Cyclingnews.
"But once I heard the full story I could understand it better, why he did it. I think it's a really important story to hear also for other people to understand [why] a lot of riders doped. Not because they wanted but they culture directed them into this drug problem.
"I think it was very important Rudi said what he did and it's important to learn now for young riders how it happened, so they can avoid it in the future. We can learn a lot from it."
Asked whether someone such as Kemna, who has now admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during part of his professional career should be involved in the sport, Kittel says "yes".
"When we talk about Rudi, I know Rudi now and before hearing the story. I know what he really wants for cycling and that was never something bad. He always wants to improve cycling and to develop new ideas within cycling without doping.
"That's how I started to get in contact with Rudi. He showed me a lot. I'm absolutely convinced that people like Rudi deserve a spot in cycling," he told Cyclingnews.
Aiming at the Tour de France in 2013
While Kittel hasn't enjoyed the same success in Australia this year as in 2011 - when he won two stages at the Herald Sun Tour - it's still early in the season and the parcours of this year's Tour Down Under have perhaps been too difficult for his current form.
The main focus of the season will circle around the Tour de France but there is a long way to go before July. Until then, it's all about getting wins on the board.
"I think it's a nice start to the season. The organisation [at the Tour Down Under] is incredible. There's no stress. The stages are nice. Okay sometimes the sprint stages are a bit harder than what I expected, I have to be honest," he said.
"It's no problem, it's still a good preparation. It's all about getting back into the race rhythm and getting used to the intensity, to the kilometres on the bike."
Stage 4 at the Tour Down Under looked to suit Kittel but the frantic run-in to the line, where more than a dozen riders crashed meant the German didn't have the speed to follow the day's winner André Greipel. There's one more chance on Stage 6 for Argos-Shimano to launch Kittel to victory but if he misses out, it's the Tour of Oman where get the opportunity to capture his first race win of the year.
"I will go to Oman, said Kittel. "For me it's all about the sprints so the big classics are not my goal at the moment.
"On the way to the Tour I think there are a lot of good races that suit me, with sprints. My goal was not to have more wins that 2011, so it's the same this year. I want to improve the quality of my wins."
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