The German sprinter arguably achieved more in the four days of the Dubai Tour than he did in the whole of 2015, where he was plagued by injury and illness. He won just two races: the People’s Choice Classic criterium and a stage of the Tour of Poland.
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The year culminated in the 27-year-old leaving Giant-Alpecin and joining Belgian team Etixx-QuickStep.
It was a far cry from 2014, where Kittel seemed virtually unstoppable, claiming two stages of the Giro d’Italia and four in the Tour de France, among many other victories.
Kittel now says he is feeling stress-free and evidently enjoying the new environment at Etixx-QuickStep, not least being reunited with old friend Tony Martin.
“I have great memories of the 2014 Dubai Tour, where I won three stages,” Kittel said in a blog for his team.
“This was also for us a good moment to test the team regarding the lead-out, regarding the sprint, how everything works without having too much stress. And when you saw the line-up for this race… with [Mark] Cavendish, [Elia] Viviani… I don’t need to explain why this was such an important test.”
“It was especially nice for me to have Tony [Martin] here with me in my first race with the new team. We have been friends for a long time, so to be able to ride together in a team is really good. We also shared a room together in the Dubai Tour and we always had a good time.”
Kittel has been training hard in the off-season, with the intention of hitting the ground running for 2016. He says that he has benefitted from the advice of Belgian former pro sprinter Tom Steels, who now works as a coach for Etixx-QuickStep.
Watch: Marcel Kittel interview
“What I really appreciate about Tom Steels is that he always stays calm, never gets annoyed,” said Kittel.
“And the fact that he has a lot of experience with sprinting is good so I can really learn from him still. He knows so much and can communicate on a level that you really understand each other. He studied the parcours of the stages like a week before and calculated everything to make the lead-out and the sprint work.”
Kittel will now look to the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice stage races to continue his return to form.
“The only thing I can say is that I had a dream start of my season, it couldn’t have been better.”