Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) says that things are heading in the right direction for him, despite missing out on victory on stage 5 of the UAE Tour. The German sprinter endured a difficult 2018 campaign but is happy with the way things are progressing early in the 2019 season, especially given the competition he is facing in the Middle East.
Kittel finished eighth on the opening sprint stage after finding himself out of position, so on Thursday in Khor Fakkan he chose to go early to avoid the same problem. He was beaten by Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria but was not far from victory.
After initially seeming frustrated with the result, he later said he was pleased with how he felt.
"I had to start my sprint pretty early today, because I knew if I don’t start there then I will be boxed in and I wouldn’t end up in the front. I was actually happy with the feeling, I had good legs. In a finale like today, when it’s so fast and everyone is really fresh, then timing is everything," Kittel said in Khor Fakkan.
"We talked about it in the last days as a team as well, to aim for that, to be in front at the right moment and I think we did a good job. That, I think, is something we can use as confidence for the next days and we should be happy with the result. To lose against Elia, and I guess Fernando was still in front of me, that is really no shame. We are on the right direction.
"I’m not disappointed, not at all. It’s something which also shows progression for us as a team."
Watching from behind
Kittel also needed to go earlier than some of his rivals because he was sitting further back in the peloton. During the final 30 kilometres, Kittel sat more than halfway down the peloton before moving up close to the front in the final kilometres.
The German explained that he got a better sense of what was happening within the peloton from further back, but it was a balancing act that was hard to perfect.
"That’s the thing with the timing, you have to come late and be in front at the right moment," he said. "It’s really hard to get that right on a finish like today when everyone is basically in a big blender and everyone is turning and coming again to the front and dropping back and it’s really, really difficult to keep the overview there. The easiest way is to come from the back, to see what is happening and then start at the right moment but that takes a little bit of practice."
Kittel and the other sprinters have one final chance to get a victory on the board on Saturday’s final stage before returning to Europe. The Katusha-Alpecin rider believes he can take his second win of the year.
"We go again with confidence in the race, with the same plan and idea. We want to go for the victory. That is our goal and that’s what we are trying to do."