Nijmegen, 7 May 2016 – Some 235,000 roadside spectators enjoyed stage 2 in the 99th Giro d’Italia d’Italia, 35,000 of them in the start town of Arnhem, 60,000 in the finish town of Nijmegen, and 140,000 along the route. The popular success of the event added even greater value to Marcel Kittel’s stunning victory in the first mass sprint of the race, ahead of Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida). It’s the third Giro d’Italia d’Italia stage win for the powerful Etixx-Quick Step man, who took two successes in 2014.
The long breakaway of the day was formed of Omar Fraile (Team Dimension Data), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Maarten Tjallingii (Team Lotto NL – Jumbo) who went clear at km 1. The latter was riding on home soil in the province of Gelderland. Now 38, Tjallingii was all fired up for happy end of career with retirement looming when his current six-month contract runs out in June. The trio achieved it maximum lead of ten minutes half way through the stage.
Tjallingii was rewarded with the prize for the most aggressive rider. Fraile became the first King of the Mountains of the 99th Giro d’Italia as he crossed the only categorized climb of the day, in Berg en Dal (km 155), in first position. Berlato was the last to surrender with 10km to go as the sprinters’ teams geared up for the inevitable bunch gallop in Nijmegen. Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin retained the pink jersey with an advantage of one second over Kittel, who moved up to third overall with Primoz Roğlic of Team Lotto NL – Jumbo still second.
Press conference declarations by the stage winner, Marcel Kittel: “I don’t have the strongest team to lead me out but with the confidence they have in me and their strength, my team-mates guided me through the middle of the peloton when other teams like FDJ took other options on the left side of the road and we took advantage of them. Before starting the Giro in The Netherlands, I didn’t visualise what it could be like, so it’s a surprise to have so many fans making it special to win in such a great atmosphere. It was also a nice surprise to see my girlfriend at the finish. This morning I congratulated my former team-mates [of Giant-Alpecin] for the pink jersey that could become mine tomorrow but I don’t want to think about it. I just want to focus on another bunch sprint that will be very fast as well. It’ll suit me again and my confidence is very high now.”
Press conference declarations by the race leader Tom Dumoulin: “As you can imagine, it was a very special day. I really enjoyed the crowds shouting my name. I also saw a sign asking: Tom, will you marry me? The answer is no, because it wasn’t my girlfriend carrying that sign. I wouldn’t say it’s the best day of my career or my life. I don’t like those lines. But it was really, really cool. With three guys on the road, all the bonus seconds were gone, so we had a fairly easy day [in defence of the pink jersey]. It’s all very close together now, but the chances are pretty high that I will lose the jersey tomorrow if [Marcel] Kittel sprints again like that. Top 3 is enough for him to take the overall lead. He just has to be in the right place at the right time, and if he is, he’s normally in the top 3, so it sounds easy for him. We don’t have it really in our own hands tomorrow. If somebody else has to take it to Italy, please let it be Marcel. In our team, we always liked Marcel as a person and as a captain. Now he’s in another team but he’s still everyone’s friend”.
King of the Mountains Omar Fraile: “I won this climber’s jersey at the Vuelta a España and our team wanted to get it today. There was only one climb to make it so I had to break away early and win that sprint. This is my first experience at the Giro. It’s exciting. Tomorrow it won’t be a stage for me. It’s too flat. But in Italy, I’ll try go for the King of the Mountains points again. I’m happy with the way I’ve started the Giro. Now I’d love to win a stage as well”.
Best young rider Tobias Ludvigsson: “It means a lot to me to wear the white jersey. Personally, it’s a great satisfaction and for the team as well because we’re in Holland [Giant-Alpecin is a Germand-registered and Dutch-based organization]. The atmosphere was wonderful on the road today. With Tom [Dumoulin] in the pink jersey, we’ll never forget this start in The Netherlands”.