Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) wears the Giro d’Italia race leader’s pink jersey during today’s fourth stage to Praia a Mare, but knows his success on the two opening road stages in the Netherlands will mean his rivals will be determined to drop him on today’s rolling finale in the hope of finally winning a stage.
The fourth stage from Catanzaro to Praia a Mare is 200km long and follows the Calabrian coast at the toe of Italy. However, it includes two climbs in the second half and a rolling final 30 kilometres. The last climb to Fortino is only 1.6km but kicks up at 8% with a steep start and steep finish. It ends just 8.7km from the line, and will no doubt see attacks from riders like Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and even Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) as they try to snatch the pink jersey from Kittel. The sprinters who are a better able to handle the late climbs such as Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) could also be in contention
If Kittel struggles, then Matteo Trentin is likely to step up and defend Etixx-QuickStep’s hopes in Praia a Mare. However, Kittel is keen to try for a fifth stage at the Giro d’Italia, which due to start in Ireland and Netherlands, would be his first on Italian road. In 2014, he won two stages in Belfast and Dublin but then quit the race after the transfer to Puglia.
“It’s true that I’ve never won a Giro stage in Italy; it’s only my second Giro. The first time I started here I was, unfortunately, sick and I really hope I go further this year than I did last time…. and also go for a victory in Italy,” said Kittel, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I know the next few stages for sure won’t be easy. The big challenge for me is to try now to be as good as possible over the more difficult stages. I think that now everyone will really try to drop Etixx-QuickStep and Kittel on the climbs before we get to the sprint, so we have to be aware of that and we are. But I’m looking for to the next few days. I’ll just try to give my best as in the opening stage.”
Kittel admitted that he didn’t get much sleep after winning his second stage in the Netherlands and taking the pink jersey. Like the rest of the peloton, he was awoken at 6:00 am on Monday morning for the flight to Italy.
“I was excited about having won and taken the pink jersey, so I didn’t sleep much. I made up for on the plane,” he explained. “We had a great, great start to the Giro and a great start in the Netherlands, the way we won the stages was very impressive. At the end, we also got the pink jersey as a reward.”
Kittel refused to compare taking pink in the Giro d’Italia to the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.
“It’s something you can’t compare to my success at the Tour. It’s something that stands outs for itself. I’m very proud if this achievement.”