Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) took the win in stage two of the Giro d’Italia, overpowering Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida). However, he fell short of claiming the pink jersey he had his sights set on, which remains on the shoulders of stage one winner Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
With little in the way of climbs, the stage was expected to finish in a bunch sprint. Kittel was in a strong position to take the race lead, as he started the day only eleven seconds off the pink jersey of Dumoulin, with a ten second time bonus on the line for the stage winner. However, even with a win in his pocket, that would leave him one second short of pink, which meant he would have to claim at least one more time bonus at one of the intermediate sprints out on the road.
As soon as the flag dropped, Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), and Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) jumped clear of the peloton and were given the all clear to ride away. The break swept up all the bonus seconds on offer at the intermediate sprints, with Tjallingii taking maximum points at both sprints. The riders slowly built up their lead, peaking at around ten minutes with 100 kilometres to go. The stage also featured the first climb of the race, albeit a small one, which meant that the winner would pull on the mountains classification jersey at the end of the stage. Fraile managed to jump clear of his breakaway compatriots to take the win, and with it the jersey.
In the peloton behind, Giant-Alpecin had been pacing the peloton in defence of Dumoulin’s lead, and the break’s lead had slowly been coming down to about 2:30 with some 50 kilometres to go to go to the finish, which would feature two circuits in Nijmegen.
As the peloton started closing in on the finishing circuit, Etixx-QuickStep joined Giant-Alpecin at the front of the peloton in order to work for their man Kittel, as Tjallingii and Fraile sat up and shook hands going into the finishing circuit. Berlato took one last flier as the peloton closed in, probably in pursuit of the most aggressive rider award, rather than the stage win. As the speed picked up on the final circuits, more teams pushed their way to the front of the peloton, whether in service of their sprinters or to keep their team leaders safe from the potential of crashes in the peloton. Berlato meanwhile was still dangling in front of the peloton, and was finally brought back as they hit the final lap of the finish circuit.
It was the teams of the general classification riders, rather than the sprinters, that were working hard to position themselves near the front of the field as they closed in on the finale, with LottoNL-Jumbo, Cannondale, Movistar, Giant-Alpecin, and Sky all pushing for the front, while Kittel’s Etixx-QuickStep team seemed strangely absent. The high speed of the peloton dissuaded any riders from launching a last minute attack, while FDJ and Cannondale seemed to get the upper hand in the peloton going into the final couple of kilometres. Kittel was not to be outdone though, and appeared at the sharp end of the race with some 1,5 kilometres to go, with most of the major players close to him, including Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Elia Viviani (Sky), and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge).
Etixx-QuickStep moved to the front to start the leadout, with FDJ following for Demare. Kittel elected to slot into position behind Demare rather than on the wheel of his own leadout train, and when the last of the Etixx-QuickStep men pulled over, it left FDJ pulling for the win. As Demare went on the right of his final leadout man, up the barriers, Kittel went on the left, and accelerated clear to win with apparent ease from Demare and Modolo, with Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani CSF) taking the minor positions.
The only Kiwi in the race, Sam Bewley (Orica-GreenEdge) finished 45 seconds down on the winner after working for teammate Caleb Ewan throughout the day’s racing.
In the overall classification, Dumoulin still leads, in the same time as Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), so finished one hundredth of a second behind him in the stage one time trial. Kittel moved up to third, one second back, with Andrey Amador (Movistar) in fourth a further five seconds back, followed by Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin) in fifth.