Kittel takes maglia rosa after another Giro d'Italia victory
The Etixx – Quick-Step rider doubled his tally at this year's edition and became the first German in a decade to lead the race.
The opening week-end of the Giro d'Italia was owned by Marcel Kittel, who began his campaign with a top 5 in the Apeldoorn time trial, before going on to win both road stages which took place in the Netherlands. It was a fantastic display of strength not only from the 27-year-old, but also from the whole team, as Gianluca Brambilla, David De La Cruz, Bob Jungels, Fabio Sabatini, Pieter Serry, Matteo Trentin, Carlos Verona and Lukasz Wisniowski brought their valuable contribution to the successes Etixx – Quick-Step has enjoyed in Nijmegen and Arnhem.
Unlike yesterday's stage, the one on Sunday was more nervous, because of the narrow roads and the strong crosswinds, which at one point led to an important split in the pack. Despite a gap that sat at half a minute, it was all back together for the final 50 kilometers, when the sprinters' teams went after the day's escape, which included Julen Amezqueta (Willier-Southeast), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Johan Van Zyl (Dimension Data).
From that group, Van Zyl gave it a go inside the final 12 kilometers and opened a substantial gap of one minute, which prompted an incredible response from Bob Jungels, as the Luxembourg champion took the front of the bunch and rode full gas to close that margin. In the final two kilometers, Matteo Trentin and Fabio Sabatini led out Marcel Kittel, who nabbed another commanding victory, leaving everyone else behind with 200 meters to go, thus allowing himself enough time to celebrate win number 13 in Grand Tours and his first ever maglia rosa.
"Maybe today's stage looked easy on the roadbook, but it wasn't. There were small roads and crosswinds, so the peloton was very nervous. Everyone tried to stay in the best position and it was a real fight out there. Many teams were reluctant to help us, so we had to push hard in order to reel in the break, and this only shows how super strong we are. The team was unbelievable, went full gas at the end to close the gap on the last rider in the breakaway, and I must thank them. I am very happy for the way things worked out today", said Marcel Kittel immediately after the stage.
Marcel, just the fifth German rider (and the first in ten years) to wear the pink jersey, also made an analysis of the opening week-end, while underlining the hard work of the Etixx – Quick-Step riders: "I started here with a focus on doing a good time trial and the result I got on Saturday gave me even more confidence for what was to follow. I won both road stages, but I wouldn't have done it without my teammates, who were fantastic in these past days; there really isn't more that I could have asked them."
It's a real honour to wear the maglia rosa for the first time in my career, it's a special feeling and I will enjoy every moment of having it.
On Monday, the race schedules a rest day, as the peloton will head to the Calabria region for stage 4 between Catanzaro and Praia a Mare, a town which has never before hosted a Giro d'Italia stage. The course is undulating in the final 80 kilometers and will for sure give some ideas to the attackers, especially as the last climb – Via Forlino (1700 meters at a 7.7% average) – tops with around 8 kilometers left. Still, with a non-technical descent followed by three pan-flat kilometers, there is a chance to see the reduced peloton come back and fight for the win.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele