Twelve months later, though, and the German is back on the top of his game and will be a favourite to win at least one stage at the Giro d'Italia this year.
Etixx-Quick Step's decision to bring him on board after a disastrous season has paid off, with seven wins coming from Kittel's sprinting so far, although only one has come at the WorldTour level.
Kittel won two stages at the Giro in 2014 and will be keen to add several more to his collection during this May's Giro d'Italia.
While Kittel suffered, André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) put in the best year of his career in 2015, including a stage win at the Giro and time in the sprinter's red jersey.
That was, of course, followed by his four stages at the Tour de France - something the big German will be looking to challenge for again this July.
Like last year, Greipel may not last the course, especially with the number of mountainous days in the third week. But the sprint stages in the first 14 days will take his fancy.
He turned a few heads as well with his decision to go for the full red skinsuit, which is a bit of an acquired taste.
Unlike many of the other big sprinters in this race, Viviani will not be targeting the Tour de France later in the season, meaning this is his only shot at Grand Tour success.
The big names just keep on coming and in Arnaud Démare (FDJ) the Giro has a reigning Monument winner in its midst.
He's not raced much since that historic Milan-San Remo win, but the Frenchman will probably still be flying high after that result on March 19.
He always seems to perform best when you're not expecting him to do that well, so putting him in this list is sure to put the mockers on him.
Check out the full route of the 2016 Giro d'Italia
Caleb Ewan's stock just keeps on rising and at the Giro d'Italia the Australian has the chance to add to the Vuelta a España stage win he took last year.
Despite only being 21, Ewan has mixed it with some established names this season, although hasn't come out on top against the best sprinters so far.
Ewan has the skills and the speed to produce wins at this Giro d'Italia especially with an Orica-GreenEdge leadout that contains Luka Mezgec - a Giro stage winner in his own right.
A frustrating figure, Modolo has the skills to win a lot more races than he actually does. Granted, he took two stages at the recent Tour of Turkey, but the field was pretty weak.
In the big races, though, Modolo often comes away with a low top-10 finish, but will racing in front of his home fans spur him on to bigger things?
Last year the Italian, who rides for Lampre-Merida, scored two stage wins in the Giro on his way to third overall in the points classification.
Having watched Viviani sit in red for much of the Giro last year, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) put in some strong performaces near the end to stroll to victory in the points classification.
He's never won a stage of a Grand Tour, but at the age of 27 and in the form of his life we could see the man in pinstripes crossing the line first this time round.
Nizzolo's best chances could come in the final week, when the bigger names may have dropped out, but by going toe-to-toe (and winning) against Mark Cavendish in Croatia recently Nizzolo showed how fast he can be.
Seeing Viviani and Jakub Mareczko (Wilier-Southeast) going against each other in a sprint will be great to watch at the Giro after what happened between the pair at the Tour de San Luis in January.
Riding for the same Italian national squad, Mareczko led out Viviani to the line on stage seven and then just kept on sprinting and beat the Sky man to the line.
Viviani was so angry that he didn't turn up to the podium celebrations - later apologising for his actions.
Mareczko won two stages in Turkey and one at Coppi e Bartali in March, so looks to be in good shape for a crack at a stage at the Giro.
This is our wildcard pick for this race, mostly because we're not sure who will actually get the nod to sprint for Katusha.
Alexander Porsev challenged for the flat stages in last year's Giro, but Alexey Tsatevich has been getting some decent results in recent months.
The 26-year-old Russian took a series of top-10 finishes at the Volta a Catalunya and a couple at the Tour Down Under this year and appears to be the kind of sprinter who can compete in the slightly lumpy finishes, which are de rigeur in Grand Tours nowadays.
He also took a stage win in Catalunya from the breakaway, so we could see the Katusha man getting out the front of the race to hoover up some sprint points as well.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.