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by Shane Stokes
March 18, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos
Already a winner five times this season, Marcel Kittel is one of the most high-profile absentees from the QuickStep Floors squad for Saturday’s Milan San Remo.
The German rider has told CyclingTips that while he would have liked to have been selected for the race, that he can also see the logic behind the choices that the team has made.
However, for future years, he says he is keen to see how he can fare on the longest of the spring Classics.
“I never did San Remo, so I don’t know really what I’m talking about in relation to it,” he said, speaking this week in Girona, Spain. “For sure, it is a race I really want to do, just to find out for myself how it is.
“That’s not going to happen this year. I am not happy that I miss out but, in the end, we are a team. It’s a hard decision. But I think, in my eyes, it makes no sense to send a team there where you have four leaders. So it has to be clear [how the tactics will play out], and that would not be clear if I would go there, for example.”
Kittel is one of the sport’s fastest sprinters, winning a total of nine stages in the Tour de France, four in the Giro d’Italia and one on the Vuelta a España.
This season he took three stages, the overall victory and the points classification in the Dubai Tour, as well as stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour. And while he didn’t hit the line first in Paris-Nice, he believes that his form is in a very good place.
“I feel actually quite happy with the results. And also that everything is going according to plan. I think that’s always a very important feeling that you should get in the beginning of the year, that you know where you are and where you stand compared to your opponents. That gave me confidence.”
Although he would be a force to reckon with if he was there in the finale of Milan-San Remo, he accepts that the race would be a journey into the unknown for him. Asked how he would fare on climbs such as La Cipressa and the Poggio, if he would be able to handle them and still be there in the finale, he accepts it’s hard to be certain.
“Seriously, I never did those climbs. I will not say now that it’s a perfect race for me, not knowing how the race is. And that’s the experience I want to get [in the future]. Then I can say more about the race.”
The QuickStep Floors team will instead send its younger sprinter, Fernando Gaviria. He is a proven quality in the race, being in contention in the finale last year but crashing out just as the sprint opened up.
Heading into this year’s race, he has four wins to his credit, including victory ahead of world champion Peter Sagan on stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The team will also field riders such as Tom Boonen, who was second in 2010 and third in 2007, and Julian Alaphilippe, who shone in last week’s Paris-Nice by taking a stage plus the green and white jerseys.
The star-studded cast will also include former world champion Philippe Gilbert, previously twice third, Jack Bauer, Fabio Sabatini, Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote.
According to directeur sportif Davide Bramati, the multifaceted approach is designed to cover all bases. “We have a squad with a lot of depth, capable of playing different cards, depending on the race scenario.”
In that regard, Kittel understands why he is missing out.
“I guess I have to wait another year. And it’s always a give and take over the year, which races you can go to and where you also have to let your other team-mates go. While I’m not happy, I can accept it.”
He believes his team has a very strong line-up, but sees potential danger from the 2009 winner Mark Cavendish. After an anonymous Tirreno-Adriatico there has been talk that the Manxman is ill, but Kittel is not sure.
“Honestly, when someone told me that Cav was really, really sick before the  Tour, that is where I started to think that he was really, really good,” he smiles.
“I heard also this weekend before Milan-San Remo he is really sick. Someone said that…but I think he will be really good…”