After five tough stages in Italy, Marcel Kittel has called time on his 2016 Giro d'Italia - leaving the race after stage eight

Two stage wins, a day in the pink jersey and five stages in the lead of the points classification – Marcel Kittel left the Giro d’Italia after stage eight after a pretty successful week.

The German sprinter won both road stages in the Netherlands to start the Giro last Saturday and Sunday but was unable to replicate his early form when the race moved on to Italy from Tuesday.

He was off the pace on stage five, won by fellow German Andre Greipel, and suffered an untimely puncture in the final stages of stage seven – losing the red jersey in the process.

Another brutally tough stage on Saturday saw Kittel finish in a group with many of the other sprinters, 18 minutes down on his teammate and stage winner Gianluca Brambilla.

“Considering from where I came it’s very important for me to pay attention to my fitness level. The Giro has been a tough and demanding race so far, even in the stages bookmarked for the sprinters,” Kittel said.

“Now I feel that I need to rest before the future goals of the season. I leave from here with a brace of wins and with many great memories, two of which are wearing the pink jersey for the first time in my career and the great ride of Gianluca Brambilla on Saturday.”

The pace was so high throughout the stage that Team Sky sprinter Elia Viviani missed the time cut along with Trek-Segafredo‘s Boy van Poppel and Iuri Filosi of Nippo-Vini Fantini.

Kittel is likely to target stage wins and the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in July.