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by Shane Stokes
August 13, 2015
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Although he missed the Tour de France and didn’t ride the Giro d’Italia, Marcel Kittel will not be part of the Giant-Alpecin team for the Vuelta a España.
The lineup of the squad was announced today and John Degenkolb, who was the team’s designated sprinter in the Tour, will once ahead head the team in the Spanish event.
Kittel’s form this season has been below his usual standard, with his team saying that a virus set him back. He has however been in much better condition of late.
However, contacted by CyclingTips on Wednesday, team spokesman Geert Broekhuizen said that his absence from the Vuelta lineup is not unexpected.
“It was not in the plan,” he explained. “We made an alternative plan for him, the Vuelta was never on the table. It was always the intent to go with John as the sprinter.”
Kittel was disappointed not to ride the Tour but showed good form when he took the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne on August 2nd. He was runner-up the following day and ended the race as the winner of the points classification.
“It was a good comeback for him,” said Broekhuizen. “His form is good, he had a good week in Poland. Now he is working towards Vattenfalls next week. He is feeling strong and is looking forward to it.”
He will ride the GP Ouest France in Plouay after that, then has a programme of Belgian racing.
Kittel’s contract runs until the end of 2016 and his aim will be to be to return to the Tour and try to replicate the multiple stage wins he took in 2013 and 2014. He notched up four in each of those editions.
Meanwhile the team has said that the sprint stages will be the primary focus for the squad in the Vuelta.
“Our main goal is to go for stage success with John [Degenkolb], as we targeted at the Tour,” stated coach Christian Guiberteau.
“With Koen [de Kort], Luka [Mezgec], Zico [Waeytens] and Tom [Dumoulin], we have a strong lead-out for John. With Lawson [Craddock] we are working towards the longer-term development, and will not target specific GC ambitions but rather we aim to help him learn how to behave as GC rider.
“We have shown at the Giro and Tour that we are ready to take any opportunities as they come and on the in-between stages we will look to profit from the breakaway opportunities. In addition we have Tom [Dumoulin] here who will look to target the TT along with the Classics style stages.”
Dumoulin impressed in the Tour de France, finishing fourth in the opening time trial and netting eighth on stage two. He started stage three third overall, just six seconds off the yellow jersey, and was thought to have a strong chance of inheriting the yellow jersey on the Mur de Huy.
However he was caught up in one of the day’s big crashes, suffering a dislocated shoulder.
He is aiming to bounce back with a strong performance in the Vuelta. As for Craddock, he too is highly motivated after netting third on the toughest stage of the Tour de Pologne.
Degenkolb wasn’t able to clock up a stage win in the Tour but went close, finishing second twice and fourth three times. He was highly impressive earlier in the season, winning both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix.
Also on the team are Germany’s Johannes Fröhlinger, Frenchman Thierry Hupond and Tom Stamsnijder of the Netherlands.
The Vuelta begins on Saturday August 22.