May 14, 2016 – Having won two stages and worn the race leader’s pink jersey, German sprint star Marcel Kittel quit the Giro d’Italia following Saturday’s eighth stage.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

The 28-year-old, who reigned supreme in the sprints at the 2013 and 2014 Tour de France races, won back-to-back stages in the Holland, where the race started just over a week ago.

“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,” he said in a statement released by his Etixx team.

“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. “Considering from where I came it’s very important for me to pay attention to my fitness level.

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.” Kittel has won more races than anyone else this season following a dismal injury and illness-hit 2015.

He won the second and third stages of the Giro in Nijmegen and Arnhem in only his second participation in the race. He also won two stages in 2014.

He wore the leader’s pink jersey for a day after his second stage win this year.