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Changing of the guard: Is it all over for sprinters Kittel and Greipel?

Joe Robinson
11 Apr 2019

Greipel contemplates being 'too old' while Kittel faces 'crisis talks' with Katusha-Alpcein

The changing of the sprinting guard seems complete as various reports suggest German duo Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel have begun to admit they are past their best.

Both riders have been the subject of reports in the Belgian press centred around the struggles both have been experiencing in the opening months of the season.

Despite 44 race days between them this season, Greipel and Kittel have only managed a single victory each so far in 2019 – Stage 6 of La Tropicale Amissa Bongo for the former, and the Trofeo Palma for the latter. Hardly the sort of spoils the pair are used to fighting over. By this point of the 2017 season, the German duo had registered 10 wins between them.

When young Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan agreed a move from Mitchelton-Scott to Lotto-Soudal for 2019, Greipel decided to leave the WorldTour to continue fighting for his own opportunities, joining ProContinental team Arkea-Samsic.

Although it seemed a high profile signing for the relatively minor French team, Greipel has struggled for form in 2019 and now admits that time could be up on his career.

Speaking to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, Greipel admitted that 'my instinct as a sprinter is gone', and that while physically he can still perform at the top level, 'I just don’t feel ready to fight for the right positions any more'.

The experienced German then conceded he believes he may 'have been become too old'.

Het Nieuwsblad, meanwhile, reports that Katusha-Alpecin are set to hold crisis talks about Marcel Kittel, who has struggled to perform since moving from Quick-Step Floors (now Deceuninck-QuickStep) at the end of 2017.

Team director Dirk Demol told press at the finish line of Scheldeprijs yesterday that concerns over the 30-year-old's form has led to a meeting between the rider and team management to discuss his future.

'We can’t keep looking for excuses. We need to talk urgently, We can’t keep hiding. In the coming weeks, we will be sitting together with Marcel, his trainers and team management. A crisis meeting.' said Demol.

A record five-time winner at Scheldeprijs, Kittel could only manage 99th yesterday, finishing over four minutes adrift of winner Fabio Jakobsen.

Since joining Katusha-Alpecin Kittel has only managed to register three victories – a poor return considering the 88 wins the German had taken before making the move.

It appears the discussions won't purely be restricted to Kittel's lack of form, either. At last year's Tour de France, team sports director Dimitri Konyshev revealed to L'Equipe that the German had openly been playing on his phone during a pre-stage meeting and was making it clear that he had no interest in listening to what the Russian was saying. Kittel was eventually ejected from the race on Stage 11 after missing the time cut.

The German duo make up two-thirds of an era-defining sprinter trio that are all struggling to keep pace with the current peloton, the third of course being Brit Mark Cavendish, who following a series of debilitating illnesses and injuries, has taken an indefinite break from racing in an attempt to fully recover.

The Dimension Data rider is scheduled to return in time for the Tour de France in July, having last appeared at Paris-Nice in early March and without a victory since the Dubai Tour in February of 2018.