Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) made it two for two when he won today's 3rd stage of the Giro d'Italia from Nijmegen to Arnhem. Elia Viviani (Team Sky) took 2nd place in the mass sprint with Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) placing 3rd.
Today's 190km stage had a number of similarities to yesterday's stage, with an early escape also going clear almost from the gun. 4 riders got the jump and there were 2 familiar faces in Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), both riders were part of the break yesterday as well. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka also had representation in the move once again and today it was in the form of our South African, Johann van Zyl. Julen Amezqueta (Willier-Southeast) was the final rider making up the escape quartet.
Like yesterday, the stage was almost totally flat with just one categorised climb coming midway through the stage. As Tjallingii picked up 2 points behind our King of the Mountains victor, Omar Fraile, yesterday, the Dutchman was set to take over the Blue Jersey as long he wasn't 4th across the summit of today's climb. Tjallingii made no mistakes and took maximum points on offer and also the jersey.
Attention was now focused on the stage result and everybody was once again expecting a sprint finish. With 20km to go, the 4 leaders had 2'13" on the peloton and there was a slight sense of belief that the quartet could make it to the line. A crash in the peloton did not help the cause of main bunch in their efforts to chase down the leaders and Van Zyl still had something left in the tank to give.
Our South African attacked his 3 breakaway counterparts with 12km to go and with the peloton just 45" behind. He was able to open the gap back up to 1 minute just briefly before Eti,xx-Quickstep and the other sprinters teams really started to ramp up the pace in the peloton. Van Zyl had 34" with 5km to go and although @VanSnail is his social media handle and team nickname, he was certainly travelling a lot faster than a Snail's pace.
Unfortunatley, after a brave and courageous effort, Van Zyl was caught with 1.8km to go and the sprinters would have their day. Our African Team had birthday boy, Kristian Sbaragli, in the thick of the action once again. As Kittel sprinted to the stage victory and also into the overall pink leader’s jersey, our Italian had another solid ride to cross the line in 6th place for our African Team.
Johann van Zyl - Rider
It was a long day. For the first half of the race it was more or less a headwind so we had to time our effort smartly. After the feedzone we started riding harder and harder. With a tailwind and 6-minute lead we knew we could get quite far if we rode smart but the guys were saving energy for the mountain sprint so they weren't really committing. Once we got onto the local laps we rode as hard as we could and I attacked them with about 12km to go. I don't know if the guys just didn't want to commit anymore or if they were just tired but I knew I had to go now. I went as hard as I could and I ended up being 1 or 2 kilometers short, next time.
Rolf Aldag - Head of Performance
We had the perfect game plan today. Johann was committed, he put his hand up this morning in the meeting and said he wanted to give it a shot. He knew it was going to be super difficult with Kittel chasing the seconds, they weren't going to give up the stage for free, but he wanted to try. His solo attack was really nice to see, there was absolutely a chance that he was going to make it but the race was just 1 kilometer too long for us today. The really good thing is the guys are just so committed and they are really trying, you can't expect more than that and you could also see Johann's talent. He is still young, it is just the 2nd stage of the Giro d'Italia and he doesn't save anything, he was just flat out and that is really nice to see.