A few seasons back, Marcus Kittel arrived at the Skil-Shimano training camp in Mallorca as a time trial specialist. That career ended a few days later.
When the team’s sprint coach Merijyn Zeeman pulled the data off Kittel’s SRM, he was stunned. The German’s max effort was 1,890 watts — and that was practically a guarantee of victory with some speed training.
“He comes to his peak power relatively late,” Zeeman told ProCycling magazine. “But then his big quality is that he can hold that speed.”
For that data confirmation, you might ask Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and fellow countrymen Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol). In the third stage of the Tour of Oman, a blast into Muscat Heights, Kittel went early, blew past them and nobody — not even Mark Cavendish could pull him back.
“With one kilometre to go, I was alone and I had to fight for myself, but that’s ok, the boys did a great job before that,” said Kittel. “In end, I was lucky to find a good spot in the final 500 metres and I could do a good sprint.”
Yes, the definition of a good sprint is beating most all the big names at the Big O, the duel in the desert in the Belgium of the Middle East. It might even top his first ever grand tour stage win in last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
“It was a big goal for me this year to ride in the big races against the top sprinters, and of course I’m very, very happy that it worked out already at the Tour of Oman,” said Kittel at the finish. “If you look at the start list, all of the big sprinters are here. Maybe not all in best shape, but it’s the beginning of the season for everyone.”
Final score: Kittle in first, Greipel second and back in the red leaders’ jersey and new French talent Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-Big Mat) nabbing third. Big guns like Peter Sagan, Tom Boonen and the World Champion Mark Cavendish head back to the Shangri La resort hotel wondering if Kittel will dominate this year.
In particular, Mark Cavendish seemed to struggle in Oman. The other day he blamed a Katusha rider for blocking him, today it was an un-named French rider giving him a chop. The spotlight is always on the Manxman and his Sky team struggled to keep him in position in a final 15k that CJ Sutton described as “scrappy.”
Revered Arabian cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam was at the finish in Muscat Heights. “Kittel has slain the jackals. The blood on his dagger is not dry,” said Salaam. “Soon, he will kill again.”
It was a big win for Project 1t4i, the project being find to a sponsor so they can stop using that silly consonant-number-vowel name. Kittel’s win in Oman is not only UCI points but hopefully will lead to a large injection of euros down the road.
Stay close for more action at the Tour of Oman, the Belgium of the Middle East.