Sprint king relaxed ahead of race debut

Marcel Kittel has never been beaten on UK soil and whilst he hasn’t afforded much time off since the Tour de France the German sprint king is looking forward to returning for the Tour of Britain.

Kittel will have the chance to take first blood in his Tour of Britain race debut on Sunday with the opening stage tailored to sprinters including a fresh Mark Cavendish, who is due to start.

The 26-year-old rubbed shoulders with the British Royal Family when he won the Yorkshire Grand Depart here in July before claiming a second stage victory on The Mall. It kicked off another memorable Tour campaign in which Kittel and his Giant-Shimano team recorded a bookend quadruple stage haul for the second consecutive year.

The Duchess of Cambridge – “Kate” – won’t be at hand to greet the prolific winner as she was in Harrogate but a relaxed Kittel is nonetheless keen to see out the remainder of his season on a high note. The only deterrent may be rain.

“I’m looking for a nice way to finish the season and for sure Tour of Britain is a part of that, especially after the experience from the Tour de France,” Kittel told Cycling Weekly from Germany today. “I’m sure it’s going to be also a nice race there. If the weather stays good it should be okay.

“What I noticed last year after the Tour is it is a very big stress factor. I think it’s normal sometimes, especially after the Tour, maybe the tension is not that high any more, not all the time,” he continued.

“That’s why I would like to have a good time in the races on the bike and if there is a sprint possible then I would like to use that chance, that opportunity, and see how it goes. I think [The Tour of] Britain especially is also special because you have only six riders per team. I actually can’t remember racing with such a small team, in such a big race, so that can make also a difference.”

Kittel will enter the eight-stage race on the back of a sixth place finish at the Vattenfall Cyclassics – Hamburg. He had placed an emphasis on a result at the latter but used up resources before the finale and ultimately hit the front too late. Regardless, the triple Scheldeprijs champion is happy with his post-Tour shape even if related obligations have impeded slightly on training.

“Since the Tour de France I actually was still pretty busy with a lot of different stuff going on, not only on the bike but off the bike. There were a lot of interviews and also other media stuff, so quite interesting, a lot of things that I did for the first time. Now recently I just came back from Eurobike,” he said. “I for sure had no holiday.”

Giant-Shimano is sending a strong squad to the Tour of Britain including chief pilot Tom Veelers and road captain Albert Timmer both of whom supported Kittel at La Grande Boucle where this year he and the Dutch outfit were more the hunted than hunter. He has hit the majority of primary targets this season including a third consecutive victory at Scheldeprijs and two stage wins on debut at the Giro d’Italia.

Meanwhile, Kittel has all but ruled out honouring numerous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge nominations whilst racing in the UK, observing the true purpose of the concept, to raise money for ALS causes, has been lost in a snowball effect the challenge has spurred via social media.

“It’s just about the ice bucket challenge but not about ALS anymore, that’s what I feel,” he said.

The Tour of Britain begins Sunday with a 104.8km run from Liverpool.

Twitter: @SophieSmith86