Boasting a sprinter like Kittel meant that the German team built a squad designed to dominate the flat stages at the Grand Tours, but the emergence of Warren Barguil and Tom Dumoulin as general classification contenders has seen Giant move towards challenging for the overall titles.
Barguil and Dumoulin excelled at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España respectively on teams that were in no way accommodating to a GC contender. Both times, sprinter John Degenkolb was the designated team leader but his performances were overshadowed somewhat by his teammates.
While Degenkolb struggled to win stages, despite claiming 11 top-ten finishes before his final-stage victory in Spain, Barguil flirted with a high finish at the Tour – eventually finishing 14th after crashing in the final week – and Dumoulin was in contention to win the Vuelta until the penultimate stage.
Before the season it could have been argued that Kittel was the best sprinter in the world, having won four Tour stages in each of the previous two seasons, but a frustrating season for the German and the emergence of two young stage racers leaves Giant with little option but to play to their new-found strengths.
While Kittel leaving wasn’t the reason for the change in direction, the change did play a large part in Kittel’s request to be released from his contract.
“I have realised that Team Giant Alpecin has changed and wants to go in a new direction,” Kittel wrote on his website after his release from Giant-Alpecin. “The focus on the GC brings of course a new direction to how the team is composed.
“For me as a pure sprinter there comes the question, of whether my ambitions will be given enough room. In the end, we were not able to agree on the definition of our goals.”
Inside Giant-Alpecin’s mechanic’s truck
In Ten Dam, Giant will have an experienced domestique for the Grand Tours, one who is capable of leading the team if necessary as well, having finished eighth and ninth in the Tour and Vuelta respectively in recent years.
Neither Giant, nor Ten Dam has confirmed the deal that was rumoured in Belgian paper Het Nieuwsblad, but it is thought that the 34-year-old will not have his contract renewed at LottoNL.
Giant also invested in young Danish talent Soren Kragh Andersen, who won two stages at the Tour de l’Avenir and came second overall at the Tour des Fjords in 2015.
With Degenkolb still on board the team have a strong rider for the flat stages in the Grand Tours and is a rider who does not rely on a strong leadout train to deliver him to the finish line.
The German will also likely feature heavily in the Classics again next season, defending his Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix titles before challenging for stages at the Tour de France.