The German sprinter and his new Katusha-Alpecin team did some damage in stage two yesterday, splitting the peloton in crosswinds, but had “bad legs” in the final where timing was also an issue.
“We knew we wanted to hit that corner with 5km to go up the front, and we hit it on the front,” teammate Alex Dowsett said. “We knew we wanted to be to the right and we were on the right, it was just a long 5km.
“I took it on with 4km, then took it 2km and the pace ramped-up and I couldn’t quite go with it so then I tried to get out of the way of my boys and get in the way of everyone else.”
Kittel is typically dominant at this time of year and carries the momentum through, as his well-known accolades demonstrate.
However, the 29-year-old is facing a couple of new challenges at Katusha, most obviously gelling with new teammates but also teammates that like him have only just joined the squad, which heavily recruited with a strong international focus through the transfer period.
Among those is decorated time trial specialist Dowsett, who is readjusting to being part of a lead-out sequence following a five-year tenure at Movistar.
“We are working well together as a team. It’s not about getting the end result because we know the calibre of Marcel, he said he had bad legs today,” Dowsett said.
“For us, it’s going through the motions of getting the lead-out train sorted because you know if he has got good legs and we drop him off right he will win.
“It’s a case of us gelling as a team, getting our shit together, and I think we are.”
The third stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour is the last for the fast-men with a time trial, which Dowsett will target, and ascent to Jebel Hafeet rounding out the race.