Team CEO Iwan Spekenbrink confirmed that Kittel had requested an early release, which the team was able to grant, describing the German’s season as “disappointing”.
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“Marcel has meant a lot to the team and has been a great ambassador for us,” Spekenbrink said in a press release. “Therefore, we immediately decided to respond positively to his request and release him from his contract. His request came very late in the season, but nevertheless he looks able to find and join a suitable team, which makes it realistic to actually release him.”
The 27-year-old has ridden for the Giant team since 2011 but 2015 has been a testing season for the German fastman. An illness picked up after the Tour Down Under restricted him to just 12 days before May.
He returned to action at the Tour de Yorkshire but abandoned the race on the first stage in clear discomfort. He set himself the target of performing well at the ZLM Toer in order to gain selection for the Tour de France, but Giant-Alpecin opted to go with John Degenkolb for the sprints.
Kittel was again left out of the Vuelta a España despite a strong performance at the start of the Tour of Poland in August and was also omitted from Germany’s squad for the World Championships.
Kittel said: “After my last setback, where I had to skip still more races, it became clear to me that I want to make a fresh start after a physically and mentally difficult year.
“When I shared this wish with the team, I was aware that it’s uncommon to release a rider from his contract before the end of the term.
“Therefore, I very much appreciate that Team Giant-Alpecin placed my personal wishes above the concern of losing a rider so late in the season and that it was receptive to my request to try and find a new team, which is something quite rare in the hard world of elite sports.”
The German added that he “expect[s] to be able to find a suitable team, where I will race for the next few seasons”, making it sound like an announcement on his new team is imminent.