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Kittel has sights set on Scheldeprijs title defense

  • By Matthew Beaudin
  • Published Apr. 1, 2013
  • Updated Apr. 1, 2013 at 12:37 PM EDT
Marcel Kittel hopes he can earn a sprint victory and defend his title in Wednesday's Scheldeprijs. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Nearly a year after winning Scheldeprijs in a rain-soaked sprint, German Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) isn’t where he wants to be heading into his title defense.

He’s battling back from eight days off the bike due to an illness, and he had a rough time at last week’s VDK Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne), which isn’t exactly a sprinter’s dream but isn’t Alpe D’Huez, either.

“I restarted racing here at De Panne,” Kittel said. In Tuesday’s stage 1, he finished behind the main group after Peter Sagan (Cannondale) broke away and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) dug in at the front for teammates Mark Cavendish and eventual overall winner Sylvain Chavanel.

“I restarted training, and could do one block of training. Of course, you miss a lot, and you lose a lot. I have to see how I feel. It’s difficult to say now,” Kittel said of his sprinting form.

Kittel has two wins this season, stage victories at the Tour of Oman and Paris-Nice. That’s nothing to thumb one’s nose at, but it’s not good enough for the big German, who is among the fastest in the sport when he’s firing on all cylinders. He won the Belgian semi-classic Scheldeprijs last year and hopes to defend his title on Wednesday.

“My big goal was Scheldeprijs, but I have to see how I feel,” he said. “It will be difficult I think, but maybe I am lucky and have got some good legs on that day.”

Kittel is a knock-down, drag-out sprinter, and he has plenty of competition if he wants to be among the sport’s best and improve on a lackluster 2012 Tour de France. He was never at full speed in that race because of a stomach illness.

“There are so many good sprinters at the moment. Cavendish, Greipel. They’re all in good shape,” Kittel said. “Sagan. I think there are 10 sprinters here who are all good. I think for the Tour there’s a lot of time. I plan to have a short break after Scheldeprijs. I will start now to do training and prepare for it.”

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Matthew Beaudin

Matthew Beaudin

Matthew Beaudin graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder's journalism school in 2005 and immediately moved to Telluride, Colorado, to write and ski, though the order is fuzzy. Beaudin was the editor of the Telluride Daily Planet for five years. He now lives in Boulder, where he joined VeloNews in the spring of 2012. Music. Coffee. Bikes. His dog, Anabelle. That about sums it up. Follow him on Twitter @matthewcbeaudin.

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