Germany’s turbo-charged sprinter Marcel Kittel is hot favourite to deliver the goods for his Giant-Shimano team when Stages 2 and 3 of the Corsa Rosa (The pink race) get under way on Saturday.
The big, powerful six foot, two inch goliath of cycling is quickly stealing some of the limelight from the Manx Missile that is Mark Cavendish who has been king of the sprinters after chalking up the first two of his 43 Grand Tour stage victories in the 2008 Giro.
The square-jawed Kittel, he with the blonde quaffed hairstyle, will wearing number 171, and he said that his team has earmarked the early stages to set a bench mark for the rest of the tour.
At 13 stone, he is heavy for professional racer, but he is able to generate enormous power from those long muscular legs in those final dynamic 300 metres that makes the difference in the sprint to the line.
With the Giro this year including seven stages where the sprinters can enjoy some limelight away from the general classification riders, Kittel must fancy his chances of wearing the Maglia Rossa (red jersey) when the peleton rides in to Trieste at the end of the 21 stages on June 1.
So be prepared for some fireworks once the team lead-out riders drop out just around the corner at Wellington Place and watch the bumping and boring in those final metres in front of the City Hall, and then the following day at the end of Dublin’s Upper Merrio Square.
After a frustrating time in the first half of the season, Kittel, who looks like a younger version of the muscle-bound Dolph Lungren, hopes to have at least one stage victory under his belt before he celebrates his 26th birthday next Monday.
I’m now in the second phase of my season, and I really want to be good in Ireland,” said Kittel, whose frame alone deserves respect.
“I’m looking forward to my first Giro start, so that I can get some experience of this race,” said Kittel who won the opening sprint stage of the Tour de France last year and then pipped Cavendish in the final run-in along the Champs Elysses.
Sprinters are shielded from the elements and dragged along in the peleton by the rest of the team in order to save the energy for that last blast.
The lead-out train as it is called, gradually picks up the pace and picks the right line to keep ahead of the pack.
Team individuals drop off near the end as they expend their energy until the final effort.
“With a good team around, I’m very confident that we can do good things here,” said a very confident Kittel,whose team coach Addy Engels explained that they are very confident of some stage wins.
“We have a strong line-up of riders who will be able to support the main riders in chasing down the breaks and also for the lead-outs,” he said.
“The first goal for the Giro is obviously the sprint stages particularly with Marcel in the team.
“For those stages that are too hilly for him, we will concentrate on Luka (Mezgec).”
Of course, Kittel won’t have it all his own way particularly with French youngster Nacer Bouhanni looking for his first Grand Tour stage win while, Sky’s Ben Swift, Cannondale’s Moreno Moser and Lapre’s Diego Ulissi will be bursting to put the big German under pressure.