Marcel Kittel admits he’s not guaranteed to start the Tour de France on July 4 as his early season illness has taken its toll on his racing fitness.
Speaking to reporters at a Giant-Alpecin altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada the German, who won four stages of the Tour last year, says he will race the Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands before the decision of his Tour participation is made.
With an illness picked up after January’s Tour Down Under restricting him to just 14 racing days by the end of May, Kittel hopes to regain his form in the ZLM Toer to prove he is ready for a three-week race.
“This is not the perfect plan, not the one I wanted, but I can’t change the circumstances and I have to concentrate on doing my best,” he said.
“I’ll see where I stand in the Ster ZLM Toer. After that race, I will decide whether I go to the Tour de France or not.
“Of course, if I’m dropped every day, then it would make no sense to go to the Tour – but that’s not my expectation.
“I hope to do well and I feel I can be confident after this good training I’m having in Sierra Nevada.”
Kittel was sidelined for almost three months by illness after the Tour of Qatar before returning at the Tour de Yorkshire. He was clearly still short of fitness, however, pulling out of the race in the first stage.
But in his absence, Giant’s other German fast man, John Degenkolb, has made sure the team hasn’t paled into insignificance, winning both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix.
Kittel added: “On one hand I was very happy for the team, but on the other I was disappointed because making the selection for [Milan-San Remo] was a goal for me. I wanted to help John and give something back to him after all the work he’s done for me.
“John’s victories took some attention away from my problems. That was nice.”
Kittel was named on the 13-man Giant-Alpecin longlist for the Tour de France, alongside Degenkolb. The list will be whittled down to nine riders by the time the race departs Utrecht on July 4.