Kittel takes record fourth win in Scheldeprijs
The German landed his seventh victory of the season in a race which will now be forever linked to his name.
With two kilometers left of the 104th edition of Scheldeprijs, Etixx – Quick-Step hit the front with three riders, who were working to bring Marcel Kittel in an ideal position for the bunch sprint. Up until that point, the race had two breakaways in the spotlight, but neither spelled trouble for the peloton who was controlled by the sprinters' teams. Another important factor was that unlike other seasons, this year's edition of the Belgian event was much calmer, without any incidents or crashes to take some riders out of the equation.
After his teammates formed a strong lead-out and escorted him up until the final 200 meters, Marcel Kittel – who has already enjoyed success this season in Belgium at Driedaagse De Panne – opened his powerful sprint and went down to the line against Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), winning for a tire's width and scoring his seventh victory since joining Etixx – Quick-Step, which makes him the most successful World Tour rider of 2016. Marcel, who made no secret of the fact that Scheldeprijs is one of the biggest goals of the season for him, has written history by finishing first in Schoten, after 208 kilometers, as he has now became the only rider to win the oldest Flemish race on four occasions.
It was the perfect scenario for Marcel Kittel – who was forced to miss last year's edition – but despite this historic achievement, he was quick to stress out that he's not racing for records, but for the pure joy cycling gives him: "I don't do this for numbers or for records. I just race because I love this and I love winning races. Of course, I'm glad to take the victory, just as having a team that supports me 100% and helps me get the most out of my talent makes me very happy."
The 27-year-old German also made an analysis of the last two kilometers, which saw things heat up in the peloton as the riders were fighting for a better position: "The new finale was good and this meant there were no more crashes, but it's also true that the race was more difficult than in the past, because of the wind which stretched out the peloton. We knew it would be tricky, so our goal was to come at the front with two kilometers to go and we did that. My teammates were excellent, and thanks to them, nobody could pass us. I started my sprint with around 200 meters to go and it wasn't easy, but I gave my all and when Cavendish came around, I managed to keep my advantage. It's my biggest win of the season and looking at the start list, which included almost all the top names of the game, it gives me even more confidence for my next races."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele