Kittel comes back to win stage 3, Matthews holds pink
Marcel Kittel earned himself an addition reason to celebrate on his birthday when he sped to his second successive stage win in the Giro d’Italia on the streets of Dublin on Sunday. The Giant Shimano rider was badly placed as the sprint unfolded, but remained focussed, gave it everything he had and managed to overhaul the other sprinters just before the lunge to the line.
Kittel edged past Ben Swift (Sky) just before the flag, with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) third, Davide Appollonio (AG2R La Mondiale) fourth and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) fifth. It was, he said, a sprint he wasn’t sure he could win, but he proved strong enough to clock up his seventh victory of the season and to tighten his grip on the Giro’s red jersey.
“I sprinted as hard as I could to the finish line. It was much longer than I would normally do it as I was not in a good position with three to four hundred metres to go,” he said. “That is why I ended up on the ground afterwards to take some rest.”
Kittel’s gallop confirmed his strength plus also his good form. He has marked himself out as the rider to beat in this race, although he said that with each success comes the burden of expectation. “I can tell you it is not easy,” he said of the pressure to keep winning. “It also doesn’t make the next races easy as the expectation is growing with each victory and we have to find a way to deal with it. After last year’s Tour de France we learned a lot in that area.”
Overnight leader Michael Matthews was back in sixteenth place but retained the Maglia Rosa of race leader. He was generous in his praise of Kittel afterwards. “I guess he has shown that he is the fastest man in the world,” he said, when asked to rank him amongst the world’s fastest. “For the guys like me who can climb, it is pretty hard to beat him on a flat stage.”
He doesn’t give up on the possibility of taking a stage win himself, though. “I think once it start to get hilly, it will hopefully take some of his top end power away and other sprinters like me can try.”
Matthews was caught up in a crash earlier in the stage but fortunately was not hurt. He said the accident occurred when the road narrowed from three lanes to two and riders converged. He was able to get going again and retain the pink jersey heading into tomorrow’s transfer plus rest day.
“It was incredible,” he said of his time in the pink jersey. “I was really thankful that the weather was pretty much okay at the start. I could wear my long sleeve jersey and show off my pink bike that the team provided for me.
“The crowds were really amazing today. It was pretty cool that everyone was screaming for me today, that was very nice. I still can’t really believe that I’ve got the jersey, even after wearing it all day. I am so happy I get to wear it in Italy on Tuesday.”
The stage began in Armagh in Northern Ireland and raced south, across the border with the Republic of Ireland and on to the capital city of Dublin. Inside the first ten kilometres yesterday’s big aggressor Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin) was on the attack again, racing clear and acting as the catalyst for a move which also contained Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia), Yonder Godoy (Androni), Lotto Belisol’s Gert Dockx plus Giorgio Cecchinel of the Neri Sottoli – Yellow Fluo team.
They worked hard under showers of rain and into strong winds and gradually eked out a six minute lead. Tjallingii was on a mission to build his lead in the King of the Mountains competition and took the points at Markethill (km 32.1) and at Fews Forest (km 51).
Behind, Matthew’s Orica GreenEdge team were chasing but had to back off the gas when the gap came down too fast. They then continued to ride tempo. With 25 kilometres to go the break was one minute ahead and thereafter the sprinters’ teams continued to bring things closer together. Cecchinel was the last to resist, attacking from the move eight kilometres from the line but being brought back soon afterwards.
From there the sprinters’ teams hoofed it through the streets of Dublin, blazing along the side of the River Liffey and then crossing it to pass by Trinity College and on to the finish outside government buildings. Kittel was out of position but still had enough in the tank to recover, snagging yet another Grand Tour win.
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