Mario Cipollini says he believes Marcel Kittel is still the most talented sprinter in the world.
Italian Cipollini, the man credited with mastering the sprint lead-out, said that compatriot Elia Viviani (Deceuninck- Quick-Step) has improved but that he believes Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) is still the best.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
The retired sprinting legend weighed in on the current WorldTour sprinting talent in an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport.
When asked whether Viviani was the number one sprinter in the world, 51-year-old Cipollini said: “Elia has grown a lot and can count on an extraordinary team that will help him grow further.
“But the most talented sprinter is always Marcel Kittel, I think.”
Cipollini added that he is not convinced by UAE Team Emirates star Fernando Gaviria because the Colombian is prone to crashing.
Viviani and Gaviria have opened their season in emphatic fashion, both with two wins to their name already.
After taking the opening stage of the Tour Down Under, Viviani went on to claim victory in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia.
Gaviria opened with a win in his first race day of the season at the Vuelta a San Juan, following up with another victory on stage four.
Kittel won a sprint stage of the Challenge Majorca in February, after winning only two races throughout the previous season.
But the German’s won five stages of the Tour de France in 2017, which put him 13th in the all-time list of stage winners on 14 victories.
Cipollini also decried the absence of an Italian WorldTour team, with talent like Viviani, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) riding for foreign teams.
When asked whether Italian team managers could emulate the success of Sir Dave Brailsford and Team Sky, he said: “Dave has the personality and the charisma to impose a project like that.
“We would have people up to par, for example [former Liquigas manager] Roberto Amadio.”