The German sprinter won the Trofeo Palma at Challenge Mallorca in his second appearance of the season but has since struggled for results. Third was his best stage finish at the UAE Tour, and he abandoned the subsequent Paris-Nice after struggling in the crosswinds in the early stages.
His Classics campaign saw him fail to contest the bunch sprints at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, where he was 30th, and Scheldedprijs, where he finished 99th at 4:30 down in a race he has won five times.
After Scheldeprijs he admitted to going through “a difficult period”, responding to criticism by saying it’s “easy to beat a man when he’s on the ground”.
Kittel will pick himself up in Yorkshire at the four-day race which starts in Doncaster on May 2, after which he will ride the Tour of California. Kittel’s only other appearance at the Tour de Yorkshire was a DNF on the opening stage of the 2015 edition but he has fond memories of the region in the north of England after winning the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France in Harrogate.
“It’s going to be nice to be back in Yorkshire because of all the memories I have from 2014,” Kittel said.
“It's a great experience to race there in front of all those spectators and I'm looking forward to it.”
Kittel will be joined in Katusha-Alpecin’s line-up by Nathan Haas, who will go for the hillier stages, including stage 2 that borrows from the 2019 Worlds course, and Harry Tanfield, who won a stage last year before he turned pro.
“Last year’s win was the best result I’ve ever had and the Tour de Yorkshire is so well known. After stage one I was wearing a jersey every day. I couldn't believe it,” said Yorkshire native Tanfield.
“It's one of those things that you think will never happen. Just being able to keep a jersey on my back the whole time was pretty cool and I can’t wait to ride it again in Katusha-Alpecin colours.”
Haas, who will fly to the UK on Monday after riding Liege-Bastogne-Liege, added: “The Tour de Yorkshire is brilliant. It's a growing event and ever since I last raced there in 2016, I’ve been wanting to come back.
“The fans are some of the wildest and most committed I’ve ever known. In 2016 the final stage was seriously cold but the hills were lined out with fans making a noise like I couldn’t believe. Safe to say, I'm excited to be coming back.”
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