Marcel Kittel has spoken of the “extraordinary” transformation of his former lead-out rider Tom Dumoulin.
Superstar sprinter Kittel and Dumoulin rode together for four seasons at Giant-Shimano, which later evolved into current WorldTour outfit Team Sunweb.
During their time as team-mates between 2012 and 2015, Dumoulin rode as a lead-out rider for Kittel, helping him to win eight Tour de France stages.
Kittel, now 30, left the Argos team to ride for Quick-Step in 2016 while Dumoulin stayed, going on to win the 2017 Giro d’Italia.
Katusha-Alpecin’s Kittel told Cycling Weekly: “I always enjoyed being on the team with Tom.
“I had great success with him early in my team. He was always a very loyal team-mate and also a strong character.
“For me, it’s not really a surprise that he ended up where he is now.”
Kittel continued his winning ways after he left the team, taking his tally of Tour wins up to 14.
Dumoulin’s career has gradually flowered, as he won his first Grand Tour stages at the 2015 Vuelta a España.
He came within days of winning the general classification that year in Spain, but dramatically lost the lead to Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) on stage 19, finishing sixth overall.
Since then the Dutchman, who once rode as the fourth man in front of Kittel in the sprint train, has become one of the most watched Grand Tour contenders in the professional peloton.
In 2017 a new dawn came for Dumoulin’s career, as he won the Giro d’Italia – his first three-week victory so far.
Kittel added: “It’s quite extraordinary if you think about how he developed from getting out of this position and becoming a Grand Tour winner, I think it’s really cool.
“It’s great to have been a part of that.”
“It’s easy to say afterwards, but him winning Grand Tours is not a surprise.
“There was always this expectation, but the fact that he went on to do it is a different story.
“That’s great for him and also for the team to develop in that direction.”