Germany’s Marcel Kittel, of the Etixx-QuickStep team, dominated a bunch sprint to win the second stage of the 99th Giro d’Italia on Saturday.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) held on to the race leader’s pink
jersey following his slim victory in the opening stage time trial on Friday. At the end of a 190 km race between Arnhem and Nijmegen, Kittel pulled
ahead of a dwindling field of sprint specialists in the final 150 meters to
solo over the finish line in triumph. Frenchman Arnaud Demare, of FDJeux.com, finished second with Italian Sacha Modolo (Lampre) in third.
It was Kittel’s third stage win on the three-week Italian race, although
none of those victories have actually come in Italy, as the German claimed his
other two in Ireland, where the race started in 2014. The German ace will fancy his chances of making it two from the 99th edition on the third and final day in the Netherlands on Sunday, when the peloton will tackle the 190 km third stage from Nijmegen back to Arnhem, albeit on a different route.
In the meantime, the German sprint ace paid tribute to his teammates for
guiding him through a “tricky” finale. “I’m super happy. Yesterday in the time trial I showed that I was in good shape. This was a tricky finale today but a finale where I said I’d stay with my teammates,” Kittel told organizers. “They did a good job to put me in a good place for the sprint and I did the
rest. There was a great atmosphere today, it was a great day.”
The Dutch public have turned out in their thousands to welcome the season’s first Grand Tour and after the huge success of the opener in Apeldoorn the peloton were applauded along virtually every metre.
In summer temperatures, an early breakaway formed, Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo Vini Fantini) and Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) going on to build a lead of over eight minutes with 100 km remaining.
They collected all the bonus seconds available in the race’s intermediate
sprints, in the process helping Dumoulin keep the leader’s jersey safe for
another day. But the flat finish meant their victory ambitions were at the mercy of the sprinters’ teams, and when they upped the pace significantly in the final 50 km the escape was doomed.
Berlato bravely tried to resist, soloing away from his companions as the
chasing peloton closed in. But he was reeled in with 10 km remaining. In a high-octane finish several teams put their sprint trains at the front to try and set up their fast men for the final dash.
But none could match the sheer power of Kittel, who pulled ahead of his
rivals in the final 100 metres to open up an unassailable gap that allowed the
German to raise his arms in triumph metres before the finish line.
Now only one second behind Dumoulin in the race’s overall standings, a
second successive sprint win would hand him the race lead on Sunday.
Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, the 2013 champion, is this year’s favourite in the
absence of defending champion Alberto Contador.
After a rest day on Monday, the race resumes on Tuesday’s 200 km fourth
stage from Catanzaro to Praia a Mare in the south of Italy.
1 Marcel Kittel (GER) Etixx-Quick-Step 4hr 38min 31sec, 2. Arnaud Demare
(FRA/FDJ) same time, 3. Sacha Modolo (ITA/LAM) s.t., 4. Moreno Hofland
(NED/LNL) s.t., 5. Nicola Ruffoni (ITA/BAR) s.t., 6. Alexander Porsev
(RUS/KAT) s.t., 7. Caleb Ewan (AUS/OGE) s.t., 8. Kristian Sbaragli ITA/DDA) s.t., 9. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) s.t., 10. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA/TRS) s.t.
1. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA) 4hr 49min 34sec, 2. Primoz Roglic (SLO/LNL) same time, 3. Marcel Kittel (GER/ETI) at 01sec, 4. Andrey Amador (CRC/MOV) 6, 5. Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE/GIA) 8, 6. Moreno Moser (ITA/CAN) 12, 7. Bob Jungels (LUX/ETI) 13, 8. Matthias Brändle (AUT/IAM) 14, 9. Silvan Dillier (SUI/BMC) 16, 10. Roger Kluge (GER/IAM) s.t.