Bunch finishes at the Giro d'Italia are frenetic affairs and the post-race declarations are often every bit as heated as the sprints themselves, but there has been precious little polemica about the two road stages to date –— Marcel Kittel's superiority has brooked no argument.
For the second day running, Elia Viviani (Cannondale) had a close-up view of Kittel's force in the finishing straight. After taking fourth place in Belfast on Saturday, he moved up to third in Dublin, but he admitted afterwards that there was nothing he could have done to deny Kittel.
"I gave 100 percent like my team but unfortunately against this Kittel, there wasn't much to do," Viviani said. "The final kilometres were very technical and my teammates managed the sprint perfectly. They did exceptional work and I'm just sorry that I couldn't finish it off."
While Kittel's lead-out train was partially derailed in the technical run-in to the finish, the lime green jerseys of Cannondale commanded affairs at the front of the bunch, and Viviani entered the final 200 metres in between Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift.
When Boasson Hagen swung off, Viviani and Swift fanned across the road and looked set to contest the win, only for Kittel — who was almost ten places back entering the finishing straight — to emerge from the swirl of bikes behind and sweep past them within sight of the line.
"When the sprint was launched with Swift, I though we were in a head to head and then I saw Kittel come past," Viviani said. "He came past at twice my speed. Like yesterday, in those last 150 metres, he's intimidating. But we're up there. Two sprints, two positions. We'll try again in the next one, in Bari the day after tomorrow."
Viviani endured a series of near misses behind Mark Cavendish at last year's Giro d'Italia and came away from his debut in the corsa rosa frustrated and without a win. This time around, he entered the race on something of a high after beating Cavendish on a pair of occasions at the Tour of Turkey, but thus far, he has come up against a formidable Kittel.
Viviani had no complaints about his position after the stage, but it was striking that both he and the second-placed Swift spoke with acceptance of Kittel's strength rather resignation in the face of his dominance. No two sprints are precisely the same, after all.
"I know that my performance was a good one and the only way I have to beat him is to try and try again," Viviani said. "The condition is there and I think I've shown that again today. I just hope that from Bari onwards, the weather will be a bit better. I don't want to miss a single opportunity."