Fourteen-time Tour de France stage winner Marcel Kittel has hit back at critics after Katusha-Alpecin said they’d be holding a “crisis meeting” with their rider after his poor run of form.
Kittel said: “Always easy to beat a man when he’s on the ground. I’m facing a difficult period and I’m thankful for everyone who is supporting me now. To those people making headlines on my cost now: enjoy your minute of fame!”
The German was dropped on the flats during Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs and finished 99th in a race he has previously won five times.
After Kittel’s disappointing performance, Katusha-Alpecin sports director Dirk Demol told Het Nieuwsblad: “We can’t keep looking for excuses. We need to talk urgently. In the coming weeks we will be sitting together with Marcel, his trainers and the team management. A crisis meeting.”
Dimitri Konyshev, another sports director on the team, told L’Equipe: “We pay him a lot of money but he is only interested in himself. [Ahead of the stage], he was playing with his phone during the team meeting, to let me know he wasn’t interested in what I was saying.”
Kittel is set to line up for both the Tour of Yorkshire and the Tour of California as he prepares for the Tour de France.
However, Demol said the team needs to get the 30-year-old back on track before he thinks about races: “Marcel is and remains a racer, but at the moment he is simply not good enough. It can’t go on like this.”
Taylor Phinney (EF Education First) offered his supported to Kittel, who has only won three races out of 91 total career wins since joining Katusha-Alpecin in 2018, saying: “Even if you quit tomorrow, you will always be a legend in this sport Marcel. No one can take this away from you.
“Keep your head up, be proud of who you are and what you stand for. Do what you do for you and the people that you love.”