• Omitted... Marcel Kittel. (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Asks Anthony Tan, will the absence of the world's best coiffured cyclist, not to mention best sprinter, be a decision his team will live to regret?
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5 Jul 2015 - 10:54 PM  UPDATED 5 Jul 2015 - 11:00 PM

I have to say, it takes a lot of... er, well, balls to exclude the best sprinter of the past two Tours de France from your team.

True, the Dolph Lundgren/Ivan Drago lookalike had been plagued by illness, and year to date, after just 22 race days, has only one win to his name: the People's Choice Classic - on January 18...

"There was room to take both - just as they did last year and the year before that."

On June 25, when his team, Giant-Alpecin, announced their line-up, they said: "With an impressive haul of eight stage wins in the previous two editions of La Grande Boucle, Team Giant-Alpecin heads to this year's Tour de France once again with the goal of winning a stage."

What they failed to mention was that "impressive haul" of eight stage wins came from the man they chose to leave behind.

Read the team press release: "A notable absentee this year will be German sprinter Marcel Kittel, who worked hard with team's coaches and experts to get in shape after recovering from a virus. Good progress has been made in this process, however the team decided that Kittel's basic fitness is still not sufficient to compete in the Tour de France."

It quoted Kittel as saying, "Of course I am disappointed about not participating in the Tour de France this year. But I will have to look ahead and focus on new goals."

The same day, however, Kittel posted a far more telling entry on his website, titled, "The dream is over".

He conceded his form was "terrible, you might say non-existent". He also said the virus he had "weakened me totally", but on false hope he kept on keeping on, which eventually made things worse.

But he also said "I am back, not yet stable but fit". In the five-day Ster ZLM Toer which he completed, his last stage race and two weeks before the Tour start in Utrecht, he explained the absence of results by saying he had just come back from altitude training in the Sierra Nevada. "That always affects the form."

"Of course, after this long pause,the team is uncertain as to how long my form would hold at the Tour. But then again, nobody knows what would have happened if I would have started. There are several good chances for sprinters at the Tour."

If Kittel was indeed fit as he said and held his form for just the first week, is that not a risk worth taking? After all, in last year's Tour, by Day 4, he'd already scalped three of his four stage victories...

For me, the X-factor that should never be discounted is motivation. Just ask Mark Cavendish how many of his 25 Tour stage wins have come when he was feeling less than ordinary but geed to boogie.

This year marked a significant moment for German cycling, because after a three-year hiatus, broadcaster ARD made the decision to return to the Tour, and bring it live to living rooms across their once cycling-mad nation. "That make me proud. I would gladly have presented myself on German TV to my many fans, who have seen my eight stage wins and me in the yellow jersey on other networks," said Kittel.

"Not being nominated is without doubt the most difficult time of my career," he said, adding his exclusion means "I didn't earn my team's trust for a Tour nomination".

In lieu of Kittel, the team said, "To achieve successful results, German sprinter John Degenkolb will lead the team with his focus on obtaining good results in reduced sprints."

Degenkolb, in the two Tours he's ridden previous (2013/14), has finished second thrice but no better than that.

With victories in Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix, this season has been without doubt a breakthrough one for the versatile 26-year-old, and by all means he should be included in Giant-Alpecin's Tour nine.

But he is, by his own admission, no Kittel or Greipel or Cavendish. He is, by his team's admission, a man for "reduced sprints" and "sprint stages with a difficult finale".

There was room to take both - just as they did last year and the year before that.

Kittel was worth the risk. But alas, as we lament the loss of The Coiffured One, and as he says himself, "nobody knows what would have happened if I would have started".