Giro d'Italia: Marcel Kittel wins stage two in Belfast as Michael Matthews takes race lead
By Matt Westby in Belfast
Last Updated: 11/05/14 10:11am
Marcel Kittel claimed his first Giro d’Italia win by sprinting to a comfortable victory on stage two in Belfast as Australia's Michael Matthews took the overall race lead from team-mate Svein Tuft.
Giant-Shimano rider Kittel timed his burst for the line to perfection and won by two bike-lengths from second-placed Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) in third. Britain's Ben Swift (Team Sky) followed in seventh.
There was a late split in the peloton as the riders negotiated a twisting finale and Tuft, who had claimed the pink jersey by leading Orica-GreenEdge to victory on stage one's team time trial, was caught on the wrong side.
Team-mate Matthews, who was contesting the sprint, crossed the line in eighth place and, as the first Orica-GreenEdge rider to finish, he now takes on the maglia rosa.
Matthews admitted afterwards, however, that it had always been the plan for him to replace Tuft as race leader.
He explained: “The plan was to win the team time trial [on stage one] and then to give Svein the jersey for this birthday, and then for me to run a place in the sprint [on stage two] and take the jersey and see how long we could take it for.
"There's not much further we can go from here. My first Giro, to wear the pink jersey, it's a dream come true."
Kittel's victory, in front of thousands of fans in the Northern Irish capital, means he has now won stages in all three Grand Tours.
He said: “I am really proud to win a stage in every Grand Tour. It’s a big relief as well because it’s a nice thing to have in your career as a cyclist.”
The 219km second stage, which started and finished in Belfast, was played out in heavy rain, but hordes of fans nevertheless lined the entire route.
Giant-Shimano took control of proceedings after the day's breakaway had been caught 3.5km from home and although FDJ briefly hit the front of the peloton in the final 1.5km, Kittel never looked in trouble and impressively lived up to his billing as the best sprinter in the race.
He will now look to earn a second win on stage three, which travels 187km from Armagh to Dublin and takes place on the day of his 26th birthday.
Kittel added: “It’s all in our hands to at least have another win for the birthday. It would be great, but it puts me under pressure. I will have the same approach and see how it goes. I will concentrate on the sprint and see where we end up."
Stage two result
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Giant-Shimano, 5:13:12
2 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, same time
3 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing, st
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, st
5 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
6 Manuele Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, st
7 Ben Swift (GB) Team Sky, st
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
9 Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
10 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp, st
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 5:37:54
2 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, +3sec
3 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-GreenEdge, same time
4 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica-GreenEdge, st
5 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge, st
6 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +8
8 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
9 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
10 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st