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King Kittel Stomps Into Giro

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May 7, 2016 – 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, but has seen Kittel stake his claim by moving up to third at just one second behind.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

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“Now I’m one second away from the pink jersey. Step by step, I’m getting there,” said Kittel. 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, 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. Kittel 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 tackles 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. “The whole race was a party!” said Dumoulin.

“There were crowds everywhere. I enjoyed the experience because my team helped me keep the pink jersey in a really good way. Now Marcel Kittel is close in GC but the party continues.”

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 race leader 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.

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, the 2013 champion, is this year’s overall 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. The race finishes in Turin on May 29.

Final kilometers of Stage 2

Results Stage 2:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step 4:38:31
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
3. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre – Merida
4. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
5. Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani CSF
6. Alexander Porsev (Rus) Team Katusha
7. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
9. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team
10. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo

General Classification:
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 4:49:34
2. Primož Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:00:01
4. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team 0:00:06
5. Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:08
6. Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:12
7. Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:00:13
8. Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling 0:00:14
9. Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:00:16
10. Roger Kluge (Ger) IAM Cycling