Kittel eases to stage victory as fans brave downpour
Marcel Kittel comfortably won stage two of the Giro d'Italia in Belfast as his Giant-Shimano team controlled the sprint finish.
The German, the highest-rated sprinter in the field, kicked for the line with 50 metres to go and eased away to finish ahead of FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni and Cannondale's Elia Viviani, with Yorkshireman Ben Swift seventh for Team Sky.
All the riders made it safely through the tight final bend on a greasy surface as the entire field survived what had been a testing day in often soaking conditions, a day after Dan Martin's hopes were ended in an opening-stage crash.
The 219km stage had taken the riders north out of Belfast through Antrim and Ballymena up to Giant's Causeway and back along the picturesque coastal road, where thousands of fans lined the roads in spite of the conditions.
As the peloton left the city, the rain was pouring, with the weather threatening to take centre stage again, but while there were one or two tumbles there would be no major incidents.
A four-man break of Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Colombia), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Sander Armee (Lotto Belisol) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) went off up the road and built a lead which reached six minutes before levelling off.
Tjallingi led the break over the two climbs to claim the first climber's blue jersey of the Giro, while Fedi claimed the intermediate sprint. Their lead began to tumble as Orica GreenEdge – looking to defend the pink jersey held by Svein Tuft – sat at the front of the peloton.
The breakaway began to splinter in the final 10km, with Tjallingi launching a doomed attempt at a solo victory. He was caught with a little over 3km to go.
Some shuffling in the Orica GreenEdge pack as they approached the line saw the leader's pink jersey move to Tuft's team-mate Michael Matthews.
Away from Belfast, Martin was due to have surgery on his broken collarbone yesterday evening after the opening-stage crash which ended his Giro. The Irishman was hoping to be riding into Dublin, where today's stage three is scheduled to finish, but was due to arrive 24 hours ahead of that to have the operation.