Published Saturday, 10 May 2014
Marcel Kittel celebrates winning Stage Two on Saturday. (© UTV)
Kittel, 25, looked like he had left it late before he stormed to victory in heavy downpours at the finish line, while Orica Greenedge reclaimed the Maglia Rosa, as Australian Michael Matthews collected the overall leader's jersey.
The rain that had overshadowed Friday's opening stage returned in time to make conditions testing but an early break saw four riders move clear of the peloton as the crowds once again flocked to the streets and hills to soak up the racing as the Grand Tour passed along the north Antrim coast.
The breakout group of Sander Armee (Lotto Belisol), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin-Pro Cycling), Andrea Fedi (Neri-Sottoli) and Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Colombia), forged a gap of 7mins 20 seconds to the peloton, but as the course edged south the bunch made their move.
Led mainly by the Orica Greenedge and Cannondale teams, the group of four at the front dropped to three as Romero Corredor fell away with 9km to go.
Holland's Tjallingii made a brave dart to escape the chasing pack but with 3.5km to go the peloton swooped and it was Kittel who took the line first on the sodden city centre streets.
Kittel, who also claimed the Maglia Rossa (sprint points classification) with his sprint win, said: "The sprint was pretty nervous and pretty hectic because there was only really one main corner at 300m before the finish line and that was the goal for every sprint team to be in front with their sprinter at that point.
"It was not too easy to send out a lead out train to there but we tried our best to get out and I came around in position seventh or eighth, and then I could start my sprint off the wheel of the other sprinters and go through from there."
Orica Greenedge have been the team to watch on the opening two stages.
Michael Matthews, 23, claimed both the leaders' jersey and the Maglia Bianca (leading young rider).
He said: "My sprint wasn't so good and I knew I wasn't going to go well against people like Kittel, so I had to aim to position myself in the front of the bunch to see if I could pull off a second or third place.
"I didn't achieve that but I got the pink jersey and I still have a load of time over the next guys for the pink jersey. I'll try to keep it as long as I can and hopefully until my stages, stages five and six, where I hope I can do some damage."
Sunday will see the riders begin the 187km stage three in Armagh as they depart for the south and a stage finish in Dublin.
From there, the Giro has a rest day as the teams travel to Bari, Italy, where the remaining 18 stages will get under way on Tuesday.
© UTV News