German sprinter to start the 2015 season at the year's first WorldTour race in Australia

Marcel Kittel will set his sights on a strong opening to 2015 as he begins his season with the Tour Down Under in January for Team Giant-Alpecin.

The German sprinter will first try to defend his title at the People’s Choice Classic, the criterium race that preludes the Tour Down Under, before he attempts to improve on last year’s performance at the Australian race where he failed to win a stage.

Kittel’s compatriot, André Greipel, who took two stages in 2014 edition, decided earlier this month to forgoe the season opener that he’s contested for the last seven years.

Along with Kittel, Giant announced the six other riders who would join him Down Under, including time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin and Simon Geschke, who are both charged with leading the team’s GC challenge.

“Our main focus will be for Tom and Simon to go for the GC,” coach Addy Engels told the team website, “that is our overall target.

“But when you start a race with Marcel in the team you have to have an eye on the sprint opportunities.”

Having rapidly grown to become one of the most dominant sprinters in the pro peloton, with no less than eight individual stage wins at the Tour de France, the expectation for Kittel to win every sprint he contests is usually high, but the 26-year-old says he’s looking to ease his way in to the new season.

“It’s a nice way for me to start the season and to find my legs again after the winter training,” he said, “Adelaide is a beautiful place and it is a relaxing way to start the 2015 season.

“Even if there aren’t too many opportunities for sprinters, the race is still part of my build up to the season and in combination with the ideal race circumstances it is an ideal start to the year. I will go for any opportunities I have but I’ll also be supporting the strong team that we have here and our other goals.”

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Team Giant-Alpecin lineup for 2015 Tour Down Under:

Lawson Craddock

Tom Dumoulin

Simon Geschke

Chad Haga

Marcel Kittel

Koen de Kort

Albert Timmer

DS: Addy Engels