Name: Marcel Kittel
Team: 1t4i (formerly Skil-Shilmano)
2011 WorldTour ranking: N/A (Skil-Shimano were not a WorldTour team)
- Vuelta a Espana: won stage 7, 3rd in stage 2
- Tour de Langkawi: 1st in stage 3
- Quatre Jours de Dunkerque: won 4 stages
- Delta Tour Zeeland: 1st overall, won stage 1
- Tour of Poland: won 4 stages
- Herald Sun Tour: won stages 3 & 5
- 18 race wins – most ever by a first-year pro
Why I like him:
German TV and sponsorship interest dwindled after the doping scandals of the last decade. However, a new generation of riders is gradually rekindling interest in the sport. Tony Martin and Andre Greipel are already well established, but a new wave of sprint talent led by Kittel and his compatriot (and new 1t4i teammate) John Degenkolb are also threatening to break into the sport’s elite.
Kittel enjoyed a stunning debut in 2011, registering his first win at the Tour de Langkawi in January and consistently recording wins in middle-ranking races throughout the year. He really came to the fore in the final quarter of the season though, winning all four bunch sprints at August’s Tour of Poland ahead of a quality field, and then going on to win his maiden Grand Tour stage at the Vuelta. In all those wins he showed both outstanding sustained acceleration and good positional awareness, attributes which could see him vying with the big guns such as Mark Cavendish, Greipel and Peter Sagan in the major race sprints in 2012.
By the end of the season, he had established a new mark for the number of wins by a neo-pro (a record formerly held by Cavendish). With a strengthened roster under their new name of 1t4i, Kittel can again expect to be right up at the sharp end on any flat stage finishes in 2012. It could prove to be a breakthrough season for the young German in what promises to be one of the deepest sprint fields for many years.
Where to see him in 2012:
1t41 are not one of the UCI’s 18 ProTour teams for 2012, meaning they are dependent on wild-card invitations for the three Grand Tours. In reality, this will probably mean they can only compete at the Vuelta, as they did last year.
However, 1t4i will be eager to press their claim for 2013, so expect Kittel to be prominent at WorldTour races featuring lots of flat stages and the one-day Milan-San Remo classic early in the year. He will almost certainly return to the Tour of Poland (which this year coincides with the Tour de France, in which 1t4i are unlikely to compete) and possibly even the Eneco Tour as preparation for the Vuelta. Coming soon after both the Tour and the Olympics, it is likely that several of the top sprinters will be absent in Spain, enhancing his chances of adding to last year’s win.
Watch out for regular updates tracking Marcel Kittel’s 2012 season over the coming months.