Giving his thoughts in detail after his Giant-Alpecin team stated earlier on Thursday that he would not be part of the lineup for the Tour de France, Marcel Kittel has offered a strong indication that the decision was not his own and that he believes that he should have been given a berth in the squad.
“Not being nominated is without doubt the most difficult time of my career,” the eight-time Tour stage winner said in a lengthy entry on his personal blog. “The forced pause this spring was already not easy. Although there were times I wanted to just throw in the towel, I tried to stay strong and find a way. This is just another blow to me, that I didn’t earn my team’s trust for a Tour nomination.
“It is not a good situation but on the other hand, instructive. I will learn to cope with it and thereby I will also grow.”
Kittel notched up four stages in each of the past two Tours but missed a substantial chunk of the current season due to a virus.
However he pointed out that he had put in a lot of hard work of late to be ready for the race and that he believed he had done enough to earn the team’s trust.
“There was obviously not a lot of time and at first I was not sure whether it would work at all. My form was terrible, you might say non-existent,” he said. “The virus weakened me totally. Unfortunately I kept on going out of a false ambition, and just got worse. But still I have tried to stay as relaxed as possible and to believe on my strengths.
“Now I am back, not yet stable but fit. I am proud that I could fight my way back to this high level after this virus. That I could not bring in any results at the ZLM Tour is also due to the fact that I was just back from altitude training in the Sierra Nevada. That always affects the form.
“Of course, after this long pause, the team is uncertain as to how long my form would hold at the Tour. But then again, nobody knows what would have happened if I would have started. There are several good chances for sprinters at the Tour.”
Kittel said that his disappointment at not starting is heightened by the fact that the German television station ARD is once again covering the race this year, returning after a break. He was part of the push to convince the channel to cover the event and said that he was proud that it eventually decided to do so.
Without him, team-mate John Degenkolb will represent the team’s hopes in the bunch gallops. However he is not a pure sprinter like Kittel and while he may show strongly on the more selective finishes, it is unlikely that he will challenge on the flat, fast run-ins when up against the likes of Mark Cavendish (Etixx QuickStep).
Kittel must instead identify alternative targets for the rest of the year but, having done the Tour since 2012, he is frank that missing the race is a big blow.
“Now I must live with this decision. Hopefully I will find new goals for the remainder of the season,” he stated. “At this point, however, I don’t really know how to make up for this disappointment.
“I am still too busy coping with the effects of this decision. Of course I want to show again this year what I can do. It’s just that the Tour is always so important.”
He wished his team-mates luck and also thanked the fans and others who had supported him this season. Of the latter, he said that they reminded him that the ‘fight is worth fighting, even at the hardest of times.’
Ending on a positive note, he suggested that things are on the up for him, even after missing the Tour.
“It is like cycling: When things go downhill, then sometimes they must go uphill again! And in this case, going up hill is actually a good feeling, for once…”