Marcel Kittel has quit Katusha-Alpecin and will take a break from racing.
The German sprinter has struggled to compete in recent seasons, which resulted in a public dispute with his team last month.
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Kittel had been due to ride the Tour de Yorkshire but pulled out at the last minute and was not included in the team’s line-up for the upcoming Tour of California.
Katusha-Alpecin confirmed on Thursday morning (May 9) that Kittel would be leaving the Swiss outfit.
The 30-year-old said in a statement: “On my request, Katusha-Alpecin and I have mutually decided to an early termination of my current contract.
“In the last two months I have had the feeling of being exhausted.
“At this moment, I am not able to train and race at the highest level. For this reason, I have decided to take a break and take time for myself, think about my goals and make a plan for my future.”
Kittel, the winner of 14 Tour de France stages, has not been able to reach the same level in recent seasons.
Last year he took just two wins – both in Tirreno-Adriatico in March – and has only reached the top step once this season, in the Challenge Mallorca.
After Kittel was dropped on the flats of Scheldeprijs last month, a race he has won five times previously, Katusha-Alpecin began planning a crisis meeting to discuss his failing form.
Sports director on the team Dimitri Konyshev went a step further in the press, saying “we pay him a lot of money but he is only interested in himself.”
Konyshev’s comments prompted an incensed response from Kittel social media, as he criticised those “making headlines on his cost.”
In the statement released on Thursday, he added: “It was for me a long decision process where I raised a lot of questions about how and where I want to go as a person and athlete and what is really important to me.
“I love cycling and my passion for this beautiful sport is never gone, but I also know what it requires from me and what I need to do to be successful.
“Despite all the insecurities, I’ve got confidence that I ultimately will find new chances and challenges.
“This is the biggest challenge of my career and I’m accepting it.”
Kittel thanked his team for supporting him during his 16-month spell at Katusha and said he plans to return to riding and racing in the future.
Team general manager José Azevedo said: “It is with sadness that we have agreed with Marcel’s request to step away from the team and from racing.
“We understand the situation in which Marcel is and we fully support him in this difficult time.
“All the team members will continue supporting Marcel in the future and we hope that he will soon get back to racing as the champion he is.”