Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) suffered heartbreak in July when he was forced to abandon his debut Tour de France due to illness, but the German showed his resilience by bouncing back to win stage 1 of the Eneco Tour on his return to competitive action.
Kittel gave an awesome demonstration of his sprinting ability on the technical finale in Middelburg in the Netherlands. He showed clever positioning in avoiding the crash that split the peloton inside the final three kilometres and then waited patiently on the wheel of his lead-out man Tom Veelers as the finishing straight approached.
Once in sight of the finish line, Kittel unleashed his mighty sprint and kicked his way confidently clear of the talented Arnaud Demare (FDJ-BigMat), Taylor Phinney (BMC) and a host of top-level fast men.
“There was some great team work out on the road today and everybody could see that the boys did a great job for,” Kittel said. “Even so, it was still a hard sprint for me, as I had spent two weeks off the bike in July.”
Kittel could have been forgiven for losing his motivation after the misfortune he suffered at the Tour de France. It was supposed to be the centrepiece of his season and he had hoped to test himself against the likes of Mark Cavendish and André Greipel, men he had already beaten earlier this season.
Instead, an untimely illness denied him the chance to contest any sprint finishes. Kittel spent five days suffering at the rear of the peloton before finally having to yield to his difficult circumstances.
“When I was out of the Tour de France, I was angry about the situation but in the end, you can’t change it,” Kittel said wisely. “It’s just something that can happen. But it was an experience for me nonetheless and now I’m looking at new goals now.”
Among those goals is the Vuelta a España, which gets underway on August 18 and where Kittel won a stage last year. Before that, of course, the Selle Italia-equipped rider still has five stages of the Eneco Tour to go, and he is looking forward to tackling Tuesday’s team time trial as overall leader.
“The team is motivated and a well-oiled machine,” he said. “We can work together very well, we showed that today. We’ll certainly try to keep the jersey, but we’ll not put too much pressure on it.”