German neo-pro Marcel Kittel, the winner of the Tour of Poland's opening stage, made history for his Skil-Shimano team on Sunday in Warsaw. Kittel's victory was the team's first WorldTour success since the Dutch Pro Continental squad formed in 2005.
"We are all proud of this victory, not only the riders but the people behind [the team]," general manager Iwan Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews.
Skil-Shimano's boss sees symbolism in Kittel's success. "It's meaningful Marcel has won such a victory," he said. "He's a young rider we have developed ourselves. We did a lot of work together, including good timing, positioning and lead-out."
As part of his preparation, Kittel went to some training camps in July, in Livigno, Italy, and on Alpe d'Huez with his team. His last race was the German national championships at the end of June.
Spekenbrink believed "since the beginning" that Kittel had strong potential. "If he follows his current evolution, he will be able one day to challenge the best sprinters in the world like Mark Cavendish."
The Skil-Shimano manager notes the main difference between the two men: "Cavendish is very explosive, like a rocket. Kittel likes the long and strong sprint where he can use his very big power."
Kittel, 23, joined Skil-Shimano in January after he rode four years for the German Continental team Thüringer-Energie. He immediately made his presence known, winning one stage in the Tour of Langkawi and four in the Four Days of Dunkirk.
After the finish today in Warsaw Kittel thanked his teammates, particularly Tom Veelers, who launched his sprint.
Directeur sportif Rudy Kemna thinks Veelers, a two-time stage winner in Tour of Qinghai Lake, can play a big role for the team at the Tour of Poland. "He can offer Marcel a strong support and perhaps try for himself too, especially if the sprint is hard," Kemna said.
For his part Kittel has proved he's on good form for the Vuelta a Espana. Cyclingnews understands the young sprinter will be part of Skil-Shimano's roster but only for approximately one week of the Spanish Grand Tour, given his age and the tough parcours.
"Our internal selection for Vuelta is not official yet," Spekenbrink said. "And we are not the sort of team to plan to withdraw a rider. We have a lot of respect for the organizers and the end of the Vuelta will be in Madrid for everyone."
The Skil-Shimano manager stated "the team will be careful with Marcel anyway".
Cyclingnews understands the young sprinter hopes to be part of the German national team for the world championships, too. It would be his first experience in the elite ranks, after his gold medals in the Junior time trial (2005 and 2006) and his silver medal in the Under-23 time trial last year.
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