Kittel steps up to Tirreno-Adriatico. A sunny victory?

Kittel, feeling sunny?

First, there’s the obvious — although that’s a meteorological riddle. In general, the Italian stage race is a sunnier affair than Paris-Nice, the supposed Race to the Sun, that is often anything but. The tough guys go to France, the smart ones prefer Italy.

In any case, German sprinter Marcel Kittel has switched his race program from PN to TA. Setting aside the sunshine, you have to appreciate his competitive spirit. Given the invite list for sprinters, the French race would have been an easier way to pick up his first win of the season after disappointments in the Tour of Abu Dubai and Dubai Tour.

In Italy, he’ll be facing a firing squad of the fastest men with the fastest twitch fibers. That who’s- who of fast includes Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina-Sella Italia).

That is a high bar to work with when your sprint train has yet to function smoothly at the highest speeds when things get nervous and chaotic and elbows fly. Nevertheless, Kittel is all-in and we say chapeau, man with amazing and thick blonde hair.

The big German is well-aware of the stakes and how things have progressed so far this season. “It always sounds easy – there’s a very good sprinter like Kittel and a very good lead-out train from Katusha-Alpecin and now they just have to ride together and they’re going to win a million races this year. But that’s not how it works,” Kittel said a few weeks back, in the desert of Abu Dhabi.

Like the NBA basketball teams that have fallen into the cliche of talking about “trusting the process,” Kittel is taking the long view, baby steps, slow and steady leading to blistering fast and podium-topping.

“You don’t always see the result, but we are doing small steps. I think today we are at the point where we can say there’s progress, and we can be proud of that,” said Kittel.

We’ll see how well his Katusha-Alpecin squad have their drills down. Tirreno-Adriatico starts on Wednesday March 7th and there are two sprint finishes on tap: stage 2 to Follonica and stage 6 to Tirreno.

Tirreno-Adriatico will prove a more challenging test than Paris-Nice. Will there be good news and champagne?



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