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Giro’14 St.2: Sprint King Kittel!
giro14st2_kittel650 Race Report: After a long, wet stage round the Northern Irish coast, the 2014 Giro d’Italia stage 2 early break was pulled back in the last 3 kilometres and it was down to the sprinters to do their stuff. The German Adonis Marcel Kittel didn’t disappoint and strolled to the win. New overall leader is now Michael Matthews.

A cold and decidedly damp peloton contested the first sprint of the 2014 Giro d’Italia in Belfast after a day of extra clothing and rain jackets, but there were no crashes like yesterday and everyone who started managed to finish. The result was predictable, but then you never know what a bike race can throw up at you, ask Dan Martin!

Canadian fans rejoiced as Svein Tuft sported only the second ever maglia rosa Canuck-style.

The Course
Stage 2 was one big 219 kilometre loop out and back from Belfast with two 4th Cat climbs, the first after 126.9 kilometres on Cushendall Road followed by a technical descent to the coast road. The second climb was at Knocknagulliagh after 195.4 kilometres and preceded the intermediate sprint in Carrickfergus with 16.9 kilometres to go. From there it’s a gentle downhill gradient to Belfast as the last 3 kilometres descend slightly into the city. The road is mostly straight until a final 90-degree turn into the home straight which is 300m long (the same as in the team time trial), on 8 metre wide asphalt.


The Start
As you probably know from yesterday; Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin and Kodol Fernandez were not on the start line, both with broken clavicles from the team time trial crash. The weather was predicted to be showery and more importantly for the final result there will be cross winds on the coastal return to the finish, which could cause splits, maybe foiling the sprinter’s teams.

After some tentative attacks, Belkin’s Maarten Tjallingii was joined by Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Colombia), Sander Armee (Lotto Belisol) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli) to build up a lead of 5 minutes as they passed through Antrim after around 25 kilometres, by Ballymena (44 km) their lead was 6:30. Orica-GreenEDGE were leading the peloton but without much urgency at the point.


The Chase Starts
After the 50 kilometres mark the peloton started to lift the pace and after 60 kilometres the lead was down to 6 minutes. After a further 30 kilometres it was back to 5 minutes as they came to the feed at the famous Bushmills distillery.

Through the feed there were a few crashes, the worst off was Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso, but he managed to rejoin the bunch. Once the race gets to its most northerly point, it heads east towards the Giants Causeway and then South down the coast. With 100 kilometres to go (through Ballyvoy) the rain started to fall and Orica-GreenEDGE kept the pace up with Giant-Shimano in close contention for Marcel Kittel.


The First Climb of the 2014 Giro
At the top of the Cushendall Road at 261 metres altitude, Andrea Fedi jumped early, but was brought back by Maarten Tjallingii and then Sander Armee towed the other three to the line for Tjallingii to get the better of Colombian Jeffry Romero and Fedi. Orica-GreenEDGE dragged the peloton to the summit where there was a little crash; Europcar’s Bjorn Thurau was held up when his chain came off.

Along by the coast and through the village of Waterfoot, with 77 kilometres to go, the escape was down to a 4:35 lead and Giant-Shimano had sent a rider to the front to help the chase and the rain was falling quite heavily as was the temperature.

In to the last 50 kilometres and the lead edged under 4 minutes for Maarten Tjallingii, Jeffry Romero, Sander Armee and Andrea Fedi. The expected cross winds and echelons didn’t cause the splits that many were scared of. Before the start of the stage, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s sprinter Alejandro Petacchi told RAI Sport that he would not be taking part in the bunch gallop, if it came to one. He said his job was to look after team leader Rigoberto Uran, although Uran had said Petacchi could ride his own race today.

Into the town of Larne, with 40 kilometres to go and more big crowds of spectators, the lead was 3:30 and the rain had eased to a slight drizzle.

Tinkoff-Saxo had also moved forward behind Orica and Giant and after a further 5 kilometres the lead was under 3 minutes and it was only going to be a matter of time before the escapees were caught.

30 kilometres to go and they only had 2 minutes.

The Knocknagulliagh Climb
Into Whitehead and the start of the second climb of the day with 25 kilometres to go, the lead was down to 1:28 and the four wanted to fight it out for the mountain points for the first KOM jersey. Maarten Tjallingii led out the sprint and the others couldn’t get past him, Fedi second and Armee third; first blue jersey to Tjallingii.

The Carrickfergus Sprint
The special sprint came 7 kilometres after the Knocknagulliagh climb and the four were still out front. Feri jumped 200 metres from the banner and was first ahead of Armee and Tjallingii in that order. In the peloton Cannondale took control of the chase along with Orica and for their sprinter Nacer Bouhanni. The teams of overall hopefuls were also getting amongst the lead, but without contributing to the work, but just keeping safe.

10 K To Go
50 seconds was the advantage for the four, but the pace was too much for the Colombian Romero and he was dropped. Tjallingii could see the writing on the wall and attacked with 8 kilometres left, Armee and Feri didn’t have the legs to go with him or chase. The bunch was 28 seconds behind him 6 kilometres out.

Into the last 5 kilometres and all of the escape were caught except for Tjallingii who was still 12 seconds ahead but it wasn’t looking good for the tall Dutchman as now Trek and OPQS had thrown their weight behind the chase.

3 K’s out and the peloton was one group.

2 kilometres and it was Sky on the front, but and Giant-Shimano swamped the front into the last kilometre and the big left hand corner before the finish. Everyone was safe round the corner and Giant unleashed Marcel Kittel with 200 metres to go for him to smoothly take the stage ahead of Nacer Bouhanni, Giacomo Nozzolo (Trek) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale).


Kittel said after the stage: “We had a few problems with our lead-out train, but we were at the front into that corner and then I could make my sprint. I feel good and now we can feel relaxed.” He added that he was cold at the finish “if you ride in the rain for five hours you get cold, but I can’t complain. I must thank all the people at the side of the road today, it was great and I am so happy to now have won a stage in all the Grand Tours.”

That’s the first road stage over and Marcel Kittel did what he does best, Svein Tuft passes his pink jersey to his Orica-GreenEDGE team mate Michael Matthews due to his 8th place on the stage.

Matthews said he “didn’t expect to take the jersey, but with the great team time trial yesterday. It’s a great honour to wear it.”

Keep it PEZ for the ‘Fight for Pink’ over the next three weeks and more from Gordan, roadside in the rain.

Giro d’Italia Stage 2 Result:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Giant-Shimano in 5:13:12
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra)
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
5. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
7. Ben Swift (GB) Sky
8. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE
9. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
10. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 2:
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE in 5:37:54
2. Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:03
3. Svein Tuft (Can) Orica-GreenEDGE
4. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE
5. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEDGE
6. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE
7. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:08
8. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
9. Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
10. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step.


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