Giant-Alpecin has confirmed that German sprinter Marcel Kittel, who has one year left on his contract, will not be racing for it in 2016. The news follows rumours earlier this week that he will join Etixx-Quick Step.
According to a press release issued this evening, Kittel told the team’s management he wants a “fresh start” following what has been a difficult 2015 season in which he has struggled with illness and loss of form.
“After my last setback, where I had to skip still more races, it became clear to me that I want to make a fresh start after a physically and mentally difficult year,” said Kittel.
“When I shared this wish with the team, I was aware that it’s uncommon to release a rider from his contract before the end of the term.
“Therefore, I very much appreciate that Team Giant-Alpecin placed my personal wishes above the concern of losing a rider so late in the season and that it was receptive to my request to try and find a new team, which is something quite rare in the hard world of elite sports.
“I knew it would not be easy to make it happen this late in the season, but fortunately I expect to be able to find a suitable team, where I will race for the next few seasons. I am looking forward to it.”
If the rumour mill is to be believed, that team has already been found, with Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reporting earlier this week that he is to move to Etixx-Quick Step following the departure of Mark Cavendish.
During his time with Giant-Alpecin, Kittel has won stages at all three Grand Tours, including eight at the Tour de France where he wore the yellow jersey in both 2013 and 2014 after winning the opening stage.
However, the virus that plagued his 2015 season caused him to be dropped from Giant Alpecin’s line-up for this year’s race.
The UCI WorldTour outfit’s CEO, Iwan Spekenbrink, said: “Marcel has meant a lot to the team and has been a great ambassador for us. Therefore, we immediately decided to respond positively to his request and release him from his contract.
“His request came very late in the season, but nevertheless he looks able to find and join a suitable team, which makes it realistic to actually release him.
“Marcel is a great athlete and it will be good for the sport of cycling, for the fans and, most importantly, for Marcel himself if he can produce great sprints again next season, which was an additional argument to respond favourably to his request.”
He added: “We want to thank Marcel for the great contribution he has made to the team since 2011.
“We really enjoyed his sprinting talent and the unforgettable moments we shared together, and we will continue to be proud of the sprints he will deliver in the future, as he will always be a ‘product of our school.’ We wish Marcel all the best in his future career.”
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