What is up with Marcel Kittel? Now he’s out of the Tour of Yorkshire. That’s not because he’s afraid of anti-fracking protestors mistaking him for Sky’s new Ineos sponsor Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
No, he’s just sick or not ready or not being professional or, if we’re to believe the comments by former pro Jurgen Van Den Broeck, hitting the wine and beer a little too hard. Which I do all the time but then I’m not a professional athlete with a huge contract on a WorldTour squad.
Kittel just hasn’t done anything major since 2017 when he won five Tour de France stages and appeared set for a few years of inevitable dominance. Perhaps it all fell apart when he then left the well-drilled Quickstep formation run by Patrick Lefevere.
Kittel’s lack of performance is a conundrum for everyone from his team and director sportif to cycling experts and fans all over the world. He’s not winning, not making the podium, not making an impression and stacking up DNF’s at an alarming rate. That’s not what he’s paid for and Katusha-Alpecin is rightly disappointed and wondering what the Hell is happening.
I’m not sure Marcel knows the answer, either. It’s a precipitous drop from imperious to spit-out-the-back, from superstar to star to plan B in small races. There’s a level of shock and an unmistakable undercurrent of frustration bubbling up from team management.
Kittel is now on the shortest of leashes. He must already be on the three times a week schedule with his sports psychologist. The good news is that an escape hatch is open and leads to sunny California, where he can regroup and work on both his tan and his wattage. Hopefully, that turns things around for the formerly-fast German with the awesome hair.
Right now, Kittel isn’t a sprinter, he’s a descender who is going downhill very fast.