Marcel Kittel has sprinted to his seventh win of the season on the first road stage of the Ster ZLM Toer in the Netherlands and in doing so he assumes the race lead after finishing just one second down on yesterday’s opening prologue.
Stage two was the first sprint opportunity of the race and Team Giant-Shimano and Marcel did not slow in getting their sprint formation into action at the first chance.
The stage went just as planned for the team and even a mix of hazardous parcours, including speed bumps and cars, and late rain couldn’t stop them from coming through for the win. The break went after around 10km and from here on the team helped to control the race behind four escapees.
The peloton was hit by rain in the last 25km but the racing did not slow and the break was finally brought back into the fold with just over 10km to go. From here in it was heads down for a sprint and inside the final two kilometres it was all about the Team Giant-Shimano sprint formation.
Five riders led through into the final 1500m and they carried Marcel through to the final few hundred metres where he peeled off and finished off the job in fine fashion, moving into the race lead as a result of the time bonuses on the finish line.
After the finish Team Giant-Shimano coach Rudi Kemna gave his thoughts on the day’s performance: “It was quite a steady day today but it is never easy when you have to control the race like here today. The obstacles in the road throughout made it quite dangerous too but the team stayed attentive throughout and rode well together.
“Speaking to our road captain Roy [Curvers] after, he said that with the rain it became quite hard to stay together on the narrow roads towards the end but they managed to stay as a group and use each others power. They were together as five riders heading into the finish and the formation was just as we had planned, each rider doing his work and helping to set Marcel up for the finish. Everyone worked well, we stuck to the plan and in the end we got the result we wanted.”
“I’m really happy with today as I didn’t feel that good early on and it took about 100km for the legs to open up,” added Marcel after completing podium duties. “After this the feeling started to come back and as a team we nailed it today.
“The first job was staying together in the wet conditions but we managed this fine and then in the final we were in formation and did just what we had planned – they set me up in a great position. I was at the front of the bunch when I started my sprint and the pace was already high so this made a big difference.
“I had a really good training period at altitude prior to this race but I still need a few race days to get the intensity back up and to get back into the rhythm but it’s great to get going with a win again.”