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With an impressive sprint, Kittel simply rode his rivals out of the helicopter shots to take a hugely dominant win on stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia; Demare and Modolo rounded out the podium and Dumoulin retained the lead

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

ARNAUD DEMARE

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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MARCEL KITTEL

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SACHA MODOLO

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOM DUMOULIN

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07.05.2016 @ 17:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) proved that he is in a class of his own at the Giro d’Italia by taking one of the most dominant bunch sprint wins of his impressive career on the second stage of the race. Having been supported excellently by his team, he could launch his sprint from the perfect position and his rivals were not even visible in the helicopter shots when he crossed the line to take his third stage victory in the Giro, with Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) being a distant second and third respectively. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) retained the lead but is now only 1 second ahead of the German sprinter.

 

In 2014, Marcel Kittel made his Giro d’Italia debut and turned out to be completely superior in the bunch sprints. The German took two hugely impressive stage wins in Ireland before he fell ill when the race returned to Italy and he left the race after just two road stages.

 

Hence, Kittel remained undefeated in Giro d’Italia sprints when he lined up for today’s second stage of the race and even though the Italian grand tour has attracted the best field of sprinters for years, it was evident that the German was the man to beat. Climbing impressively in Romandie and finishing fifth in the prologue, he had proved to be in outstanding form.

 

Nonetheless, few would have expected Kittel to dominate the sprint in the way he did when it all came back together for the expected bunch kick in the Dutch city of Nijmegen. Kittel completely ruled the finale and no one was even close to matching the German who again proved that he is back to his best after his horrendous 2015 season.

 

After local hero Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) had been the star of the day in a three-rider breakaway, it all came back together for the expected bunch sprint just as they passed the 10km to go banner on the 8.7km finishing circuit in Nijmegen that they had to cover twice. With wide roads, sweeping bends and a headwind in the finale, it became a very strange end to the race as the sprint trains played an unusually long waiting game. Instead, it was the GC teams that controlled things with Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jose Herrada (Movistar), Davide Malacarne (Astana), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) and David Lopez (Sky) lined out on the front as they crossed the line for the penultimate time.

 

It was LottoNL-Jumbo who first broke the standstill when they took the lead with Bram Tankink before Malacarne briefly took over for Astana, keeping Vincenzo Nibali very attentively near the front. LottoNL-Jumbo and Cannondale then took control in each side of the road, with Tankink, Bettiol and Ramunas Navarduaskas doing the work. Navardauskas briefly surged forward but while the sprint teams played a waiting game, Bettiol, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Christian Knees (Sky) and Matteo Tosatto (Tinkoff) were out on the front with 5km to go.

 

Tosatto and Navardauskas hit the front but it was FDJ that was the first sprint team to take control when six riders moved ahead with 3km to go. Navardauskas still stayed on the front on the opposite side of the road but Kittel was still nowhere to be seen at this point. Instead, Lotto Soudal looked very well-organized just behind FDJ.

 

Etixx-QuickStep finally showed themselves with 2km to when Bob Jungels and Lukasz Wisniowski took the lead but the rest of the Belgian train was still far back. However, Matteo Trentin, Fabio Sabatini and Kittel managed to latch onto their wheel just before the flamme rouge where Wisniowski took over the pace-setting.

 

Trentin was next to take control but FDJ proved their strength by sprinting past with Murilo Fischer, Marc Sarreau, Mickael Delage and Arnaud Demare. However, Sabatini reacted quickly by sprinting onto Demare’s wheel and the moved ahead to keep the pace high when Sarreau swung off while Kittel slotted into fourth.

 

Delage did the final lead-out for Demare but it was Kittel who launched the sprint. Demare reacted way too late but it didn’t have any impact on the result as Kittel turned out to be in a class of his own. His rivals were nowhere to be seen when he crossed the line, with Demare being a distant second and Sacha Modolo taking third.

 

Tom Dumoulin finished safely in the bunch and so retained the lead but Kittel is now just 1 seconds behind in third place. The German should get a chance to double his tally and take the maglia rosa in tomorrow’s final stage in the Netherlands. It is another flat affair with just a single climb 53.1km from the finish and the stage ends with two laps of a 14km finishing circuit. However, more wind is forecasted and has the potential to maybe prevent a full bunch sprint.

 

A flat stage

After the opening time trial, there was more flat terrain on the menu in stage 2 which brought the riders over 190km from Arnhem to Nijmegen. There was a small climb with 34.7km to go but apart from that, it was almost entirely flat and only the feared Dutch wind posed a threat. The stage ended with two laps of a technically non-complicated, flat 8.6km finishing circuit.

 

As expected, bright sunshine greeted the riders as they gathered for a real Dutch cycling festival in Arnhem, and all 198 riders were there when they rolled through the neutral zone. Here bad luck struck for race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) who punctured, but he was back in the field when the flag was waved to signal the real start.

 

Tjallingii on the offensive

As it always happens on the first road stage of a grand tour, the break escaped right from the gun, and unsurprisingly local hero Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) for whom the Giro is the last race of his career, was part of the trio that attacked . He was joined by Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) and breakaway artist Giacomo Berlato (Nippo), and the trio already had a gap of 30 seconds after 4km of racing. It wnt out to 3.32 after just 8km and was 5.16 when they passed the 11km mark.

 

Giant-Alpecin started to work in the peloton, but allowed the gap to grow to 7.10 after 20km of racing before the briefly began to reduce the advantage that dropped to 6.43. It was only a temporary acceleration though and the gap soon went out to a massive 9.38. However, that was the maximum they would get and it had been brought down to 9 minutes at the 65km mark.

 

Giant-Alpecin and Etixx-QuickStep lead the chase

Cheng Ji and Tom Stamsnijder did the early work for Giant-Alpecin and they had reduced the gap to 8.10 as they entered the final 100km after two hours at an average speed of 41.1km/h. That was the signal for Etixx-QuickStep to kick into action as Carlos Verona started to trade pulls with the two Giant-Alpecin riders and while the peloton took a natural break, they reduced the gap to 6.05 during the next 15km.

 

Verona, Ji and Stamsnijder continued to ride on the front while the big GC teams Astana, Movistar, Sky and Tinkoff rode attentively in the first part of the peloton. As they entered, the final 65km, the gap was down to just 4.40 and the tension in the peloton was growing, with more and more teams gathering on the front.

 

Nizzolo wins the sprint for fourth

As the escapees approached the first intermediate sprint with 55km to go, Verona, Ji and Stamsnijder had reduced the gap to 4 minutes. Tjallingii rolled across the line in first position, followed by Fraile and Berlato.

 

In the peloton, things heated up as Sky, Trek and Lampre-Merida gathered in the front and it was the Italian team that tried to do a lead-out, with Diego Ulissi and Roberto Ferrari hitting the front with Sacha Modolo on their wheel. However, they were completely surprised by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) who launched a long sprint and took a convincing win while Modolo narrowly edged out Elia Viviani (Sky) in the battle for fifth place. Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data) was next across the line.

 

Nizzolo again the fastest

Giant-Alpecin went back to work with Stamsnijder and led the peloton into the final 50km 3.40 behind the leaders and he did no longer get any help from Ji and Verona. He set the pace all the way to the second intermediate sprint with 45km to go where Tjallingii rolled across the line in first position, followed by Berlato and Fraile.

 

In the peloton, things heated up again for the sprint and it was Boy van Poppel who did a strong lead-out for Nizzolo. The Trek sprinter easily beat Viviani who didn’t even try to come around, with Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) being next across the line.

 

Fraile takes the mountains jersey

Stamsnijder and Verona went back to work and led the peloton into the final 40km with a delay of 3.15. Moments later they hit the only climb of the stage where the three escapees battled for the KOM points. After a lot of watching, it was Fraile who launched a long sprint. Berlato cracked while riding in second position and Tjallingii couldn’t get back, crossing the line in second behind Fraile who took the first mountains jersey.

 

Ji had returned to the front and led the peloton up the climb alongside Stamsnijder and Verona and they had reduced the gap to 2.20 as they reached the final 30km. The illness was clearly taking its toll on Fabian Cancellara (Trek) who was suffering at the back.

 

The first crash

The Chinese cracked after the summit and it was Stamsnijder and Verona who continued to work on the front as they headed towards Nijmegen. With 37km to go, the gap was down to just 1.35 and this was the signal for Berlato to try an attack. However, he failed to get clear and the trio stayed together.

 

As they passed through the Nijmegen suburbs, Tjallingii enjoyed himself by waving to the huge crowds, knowing that the 50-second gap was not enough to stay away. Things were much more stressful in the peloton where a small crash involved Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal) and Andre Cardoso (Cannondale) but luckily both were able to rejoin the peloton. However, Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom) lost contact due to the tumble and had to chase hard to get back.

 

Berlato surges clear

Berlato tried to attack again but it was impossible to escape and instead, the trio decided to wait for the peloton. The junction had nearly been made when Berlato changed his mind though and he soloed clear with 20km to go when the gap was only 10 seconds.

 

The peloton brought back Fraile and Tjallingii and then came to a standstill. Hence, the gap had gone out to 50seconds when Berlato started the first lap of the 8.7km finishing circuit.

 

Berlato is caught

When the gap had reached a minute, Giant-Alpecin again upped the pace with Stamsnijder who slowly started to bring the Italian back. The big roads meant that it was unusually calm for a grand tour sprint stage as there was plenty of time for the sprint teams to move up and so the GC teams dominated the front.

 

With 10km to go, the gap was down to 15 seconds and it was Sky, Giant-Alpecin, Astana, LottoNL-Jumbo, Cannondale and Movistar lined out on the front. Just as they went under the banner, Berlato was brought back and it was all back together for a sprint. Moments later, they crossed the finish line for the final lap where the real action unfolded.

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