Birthday boy Kittel savours Giro double
Germany`s Marcel Kittel celebrated his 26th birthday with his second successive Giro d`Italia stage win on the final day of the race in Ireland on Sunday.
The Giant-Shimano rider had to come from a long way back to pip British rider Ben Swift of Team Sky after the 187m third stage from Armagh to Dublin.
In a sprint finish for the line Italy`s Elia Viviani crossed third after 4hr 28min 43sec in the saddle.
"We tried to do the sprint preparation pretty early today (Sunday)," said Kittel, who collapsed to the road just beyond the finish, exhausted after an effort he described as "more like an attack than a sprint".
Approaching the final kilometre there were two 90 degree bends and Kittel disappeared from the front.
"I lost the wheel of (team-mate) Tom Veelers because riders were coming from left and right and I was sandwiched," he said.
"Afterwards the bunch was in one long line and I was back in 10th or 12th but I thought, I can`t give up. I was on the wheel of (Nacer) Bouhanni who thought the same."
Just when Swift seemed poised to raise his arms in victory, the huge figure of Kittel appeared on his shoulder and passed him in the final metres.
Michael Matthews, the young Australian with the Orica-GreenEdge team, survived a spill to keep hold of the pink jersey, of overall race leader, which he will be wearing when the event resumes in Italy on Tuesday. Matthews said he believes that Kittel is now the world`s best sprinter, ahead of countryman Andre Greipel and Britain`s Mark Cavendish, both of whom are missing the Giro.
"On a flat sprint he`s pretty incredible," said Matthews.
"With the lead-out he has, and the amount of power he has, he`s pretty unbeatable. I guess he`s shown he`s the fastest man in the world."
It was another stage run under grey clouds and frequently heavy rain, which saw the riders wrapped up and involved in several crashes.
Most were minor, but there was a big pile-up with 60km remaining, with the Astana team coming off worst. Five of the Kazakhstan squad went down, including their leader, Michele Scarponi, but they were all quickly back up.
More serious was another crash as the peloton negotiated a tight roundabout with 35km to go and the five-man break holding on to a minute-and-a-half lead.
Cameron Meyer of Australia, a key member of Orica`s winning team in Friday`s team time-trial, looked dazed but he too was able to finish the stage.
This third stage concluded the Giro`s three-day stay in Ireland with Riccardo Taranto, chief executive of race organisers RCS, paying tribute to the crowds and their enthusiastic support of the Italian tour.
The Irish start was first mooted in 2009 and since then the race has started in Amsterdam and Copenhagen and it is strongly rumoured that it will start in Dubai in 2016.