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After a disappointing debut season with Katusha in 2018, Marcel Kittel seemed to be on his way to bouncing back when he started 2019 with a win at the Trofeo Palma and a second place at the Clasica de Almerica. Since then, results have been hard to come by. Just this week it was announced that Kittel would not be racing in the Tour of California.
The 30-year-old sprinter, who is a 14-time Tour de France stage winner, has not raced since early April amid fitness problems in 2019.
Today Marcel Kittel and Team Katusha announced that they are parting ways before the terms of their contract.
Kittel said in a press release, “On my request Team Katusha-Alpecin and I have mutually decided to an early termination of my current contract.”
He went on to say, “It was for me a long decision process where I raised a lot of questions about how and where I want to go as a person and athlete and what is really important to me. I love cycling and my passion for this beautiful sport is never gone, but I also know what it requires from me and what I need to do to be successful. I believe that everyone has his strengths and weaknesses and that it is an ongoing process to deal with them within a team to be strong and successful. In the last two months I have had the feeling of being exhausted. At this moment, I am not able to train and race at the highest level. For this reason, I have decided to take a break and take time for myself, think about my goals and make a plan for my future.”
“At this point I´d like to thank the team for the last 1.5 years and their support. Especially I´d like to thank the team staff. From the bottom of my heart I can say that they are the best and hardest working people that I´ve ever seen. I´m sorry that I couldn´t fuel your passion with more wins and results. I´d like to thank the sponsors and partners as well that keep believing in the team with their support and knowledge.”
“I´ve taken this decision based on my experience that changes lead you to new paths and opportunities. Despite all the insecurities I´ve got confidence that I ultimately will find new chances and challenges. From now on I will put my happiness and joy above everything and seek ways to find this also in my future. I´m very excited about what is going to come. I would like to ride and race again in the future and I have to work out a plan to be able to reach this goal.This is the biggest challenge of my career and I´m accepting it.”
Kittel hasn’t raced since finishing 99th place at Scheldeprijs last month, and missing the Tour of California follows a late withdrawal from last week’s Tour de Yorkshire.
Last month Sports directors told various media outlets that something needed to change, and soon after Kittel vented his frustration on Twitter:
Always easy to beat a man when he's on the ground. I'm facing a difficult period and I'm thankful for everyone who is supporting me now. To those people making headlines on my cost now: enjoy your minute of fame! ????
— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) April 11, 2019
José Azevedo, General Manager at Katusha who brought Kittel to the team said “It is with sadness that we have agreed with Marcel’s request to step away from the team and from racing. We understand the situation in which Marcel is and we fully support him in this difficult time. All the team members will continue supporting Marcel in the future and we hope that he will soon get back to racing as the champion he is.”
This is not the first time Kittel has been in a position like this. In 2015 he and Giant-Alpecin split before the end of a disappointing season and the team rescinded the final year of his contract.