In a word, Marcel Kittel's 2011 season has been prolific. Having collected his 16th and 17th wins of the season at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour this week, the powerful German gave further credence to the notion that as far as neo pros go, Kittel is the standout among his peers.
After claiming victory number 17 on the inner-city criterium circuit in Melbourne, a beaming Kittel explained that most of the fun was to look for the best possible position in the final hunt to the line. "I like fighting for position," the 23-year-old Skil-Shimano sprinter said. "It's exciting. I like it."
Of course, at 188 centimetres tall and weighing 80 kilograms - that's taller and heavier than compatriot Andre Greipel - size is definitely on his side.
"For me the most important thing in the sprint is that it's always fair and I try to stay calm," Kittel said. "Of course there's a lot of excitement and a lot of riders try to keep their position. When I have my position I try to keep it but I'm also ready to fight for it but normally it's enough when they see me - it helps," he admitted.
It's been quite the season for the Arnstadt native, having kicked off 2011 by taking out the fifth stage of the Tour de Langkawi, won four stages at the Four Days of Dunkirk, won the first stage and then overall at the Delta Tour Zeeland, four stages at the Tour of Poland, along with stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana in his Grand Tour debut. In the lead up to the UCI Road World Championships, Kittel edged Andre Greipel for the win at the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and before heading to Australia for the Sun Tour, drew even with Peter Sagan's tally of 15 victories at the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro in Germany.
"I really need a break, just even for my head and get a bit of distance between me and my bike," Kittel told Cyclingnews with 52 race days down for the season.
While he admits that he never dreamed of having such a season at this time in his career, Kittel is well aware that such results can only lead to increased expectation for 2012, when Skil-Shimano ride as Project 1t4i and most likely with their status upgraded from Professional Continental to World Tour. It's just that he doesn't plan on paying that much attention to the chatter.
"For me it's not a problem, people can talk all they like," he said. "For me it's more important to enjoy the time I have. I'm looking forward to next year - new races, new experiences."
Although it's a race that should suit him, Kittel doubts he will make it back to Australia for the Tour Down Under which starts January 15, instead focussing on his preparation for an assault on the cobblestones of Belgium and northern France.
"I want to race again at the Spring Classics and then in the summer races and I just want to enjoy it," he said. "If I only win half the races I won this year, then it will be okay."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.