Racing the prestigious Corsa Rosa for the second time in his career, the Etixx-QuickStep sprinter left a heavy mark on the competition, as he scored back-to back victories in Nijmegen and Arnhem, confirming that he is back to his very best. These impressive and commanding wins helped Kittel don the maglia rosa for the first time in his career becoming only the fifth German rider to wear the iconic jersey.
He fought hard to win a stage in Italy but was pipped twice by countryman Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal). On the second occasion it was a flat tyre the robbed Kittel of the chance for one last sprint to the finish line. This stage, seven, also saw Greipel take the red sprinter's jersey which Kittel had held since his win on Stage 2.
Saturday night’s stage, which finished in the beautiful Arezzo, was the last one for Kittel at the Giro, after a week in which he fought for pink on the roads of Italy. He makes his depart before tonight’s energy-sapping 40.5km individual time trial, choosing to leave the race on a high rather than accumulate the energy-debt that will come with the mountain stages ahead.
"I'm sad to leave the Giro. I really like the atmosphere I have found here in Italy and I love the support of the Italian fans but now I feel like I need to recover after a long first part of the season,” Kittel said.
“This year I kicked-off my campaign very early in order to come back after a very difficult 2015 and the season will be even longer than usual for me because of the Worlds in Qatar. It's not every year that the sprinters get such an opportunity," said Kittel, the World Tour rider with the most wins to his name in 2016.
"Considering from where I came it's very important for me to pay attention to my fitness level,“ he said.
“The Giro has been a tough and demanding race so far, even in the stages bookmarked for the sprinters. Now I feel that I need to rest before the future goals of the season. I leave from here with a brace of wins and with many great memories, two of which are wearing the pink jersey for the first time in my career and the great ride of (team-mate) Gianluca Brambilla on Saturday.
“Besides my team-mates and the entire staff of Etixx-QuickStep, I want to thank the organisers and the fans for making this race great and I want to assure them that in the future I will come back at the start with the goal of trying to get a victory on Italian soil, something which I'm still missing."