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Kittel quits Team Katusha Alpecin to take break from cycling

Kittel has won 14 stages of Le Tour de France. Credit: PA

German sprinter Marcel Kittel is to take a break from cycling, saying he is "exhausted" and unable to compete at the highest level at the present time.

The 30-year-old, who has won 14 stages of the Tour de France, has had his contract with the Katusha-Alpecin team cancelled by mutual consent.

"In the last two months I have had the feeling of being exhausted," Kittel said in a statement.

"At this moment, I am not able to train and race at the highest level. For this reason, I have decided to take a break and take time for myself, think about my goals and make a plan for my future."

Kittel, who emerged as a key rival for Mark Cavendish on the 2013 Tour with four stage wins and wore the yellow jersey after victory on the opening stage in Harrogate 12 months later, has struggled for form and results over the past year.

His win at the Trofeo Palma in February was his first victory since he took two stages of Tirreno-Adriatico last March. His last Tour stage win came in 2017.

Kittel had been due to compete at the Tour de Yorkshire last week but withdrew on the eve of the race.

Katusha-Alpecin's general manager Jose Azevedo said: "We understand the situation in which Marcel is and we fully support him in this difficult time.

"All the team members will continue supporting Marcel in the future and we hope that he will soon get back to racing as the champion he is."

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Froome suffers crash as Matthews wins stage two of Volta a Catalunya

Credit: PA

Chris Froome suffered a bruising day on the Volta a Catalunya as he was caught in a crash on stage two.

The four-time Tour de France winner hit the deck inside the last 40km of the 166.7km stage from Mataro to Sant Feliu De Guixols.

Though the Team Sky rider was quickly back on his bike, Froome rode on sporting some nasty road rash and bleeding from his right elbow, and did not attempt to chase back to the main group.

Instead, he finished in a group some 14 minutes behind Australian stage winner Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb.

Froome is competing in his first WorldTour race of the season, but was here to support team-mate and Paris-Nice winner Egan Bernal in the general classification while getting some miles in his legs after a slow start to the year.

Lotto-Soudal's Thomas De Gendt retained the race leader's white and green jersey following his breakaway victory on stage one, with his lead standing at two minutes 47 seconds over world champion Alejandro Valverde, with Bernal in seventh place a further 10 seconds down.

British quarter Simon and Adam Yates, Hugh Carthy and James Knox, as well as Irishman Dan Martin, are all two minutes and 58 seconds off the lead.

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De Gendt wins opening stage of Volta a Catalunya

Credit: PA

Chris Froome finished safely in the pack as Thomas De Gendt won the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya in a breakaway.

Lotto-Soudal's De Gendt launched a solo attack 60km from the finish of the 163km stage which started and finished in Calella, and took victory by two minutes and 38 seconds.

Froome is riding in his first WorldTour race of the season, and only his second event of the year following on from the Tour of Colombia in February.

However, leadership of Team Sky is in the hands of Paris-Nice winner Egan Bernal, who finished eighth.

Having picked up some bonus seconds late on the stage, the 22-year-old Colombian sits fifth in the general classification, two minutes 57 seconds behind De Gendt.

Wiggins: Ratcliffe takeover of Team Sky 'ideal situation' for Brailsford

A takeover of Team Sky by Britain's richest man Jim Ratcliffe would be an Credit: PA

A takeover of Team Sky by Britain's richest man Jim Ratcliffe would be an "ideal situation" for key man Dave Brailsford, according to Bradley Wiggins.

Reports have suggested Ratcliffe, the founder and chairman of the Ineos chemicals company who has a £21billion fortune, will step in to replace Sky's sponsorship, with confirmation of a deal said to be imminent.

Ineos and Team Sky declined to comment when contacted by Press Association Sport.

Sky announced in December it would be ending its association with the team at the end of the year. The partnership has extended beyond 10 years, with the team securing eight Grand Tour victories during that period from the likes of Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.

And Tour de France winner Wiggins believes a deal with Ratcliffe would benefit the team under the continuing leadership of general manager Brailsford.

"Dave will want to retain control and it is Dave's way in terms of the way he manages the team, the way he sets the team up," the Olympic gold medallist said in the first episode of the new series of The Bradley Wiggins Show by Eurosport.

"I think he would have been reluctant to have another multi-national company that came in that wanted it for the advertisement and to get their name out there, but would want the control in terms of 'This is how we want to do it in terms of how we advertise our company'.

"I think that would have been a big point for Dave. So in some ways it's an ideal situation.

"He (Ratcliffe) is the richest man in Britain and you would imagine that the kind of money they have asked for is nothing to him.

"Dave can continue running out this team with all his plans and philosophies, so it's an ideal situation for him and he is answerable you'd imagine to one man - it's his money. It will certainly help that team."

Future looks bright for Brailsford's team, says Wiggins

Credit: PA

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins believes the loss of Team Sky's sponsorship will not be detrimental as new money coming in ensures key man Dave Brailsford's plans will be unaffected.

The media giant announced in December it would be ending its association with the team at the end of the year. The partnership has extended beyond 10 years, with the team securing eight Grand Tour victories during that period.

Reports have suggested Britain's richest man Jim Ratcliffe, with a £21billion fortune, will step in and Wiggins thinks that will benefit the team under the continuing leadership of general manager Brailsford.

"Dave will want to retain control and it is Dave's way in terms of the way he manages the team, the way he sets the team up," the Olympic gold medallist said in the first episode of the new series of The Bradley Wiggins Show by Eurosport.

"I think he would have been reluctant to have another multi-national company that came in that wanted it for the advertisement and to get their name out there, but would want the control in terms of 'This is how we want to do it in terms of how we advertise our company'.

"I think that would have been a big point for Dave. So in some ways it's an ideal situation.

"He (Ratcliffe) is the richest man in Britain and you would imagine that the kind of money they have asked for is nothing to him.

"Dave can continue running out this team with all his plans and philosophies, so it's an ideal situation for him and he is answerable you'd imagine to one man - it's his money. It will certainly help that team."

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