Maarten Tjallingii of Belkin Pro Cycling TEAM earned some podium time at the 97th Giro d’Italia by winning the blue climber’s jersey in Saturday’s 219km second stage starting and finishing in Belfast.
The Dutch veteran rode into the day’s main breakaway, and then scored climber’s points on hills during the stage to secure the prestigious climber’s jersey. German ace Marcel Kittel won the stage and Australian Michael Matthews took the pink jersey, with Jetse Bol leading the Belkin crew with 11th in the bunch sprint in a cool and rainy day in Northern Ireland.
“There are not many chances to be in breakaways in this Giro, so I wanted to try today. I felt I was in control of the group, and when I won the first points sprint, I wanted to go for the second one. I got the jersey, and I am satisfied because I think I got the most out of the day’s effort,” Tjallingii said. “Tomorrow there will be another chance for a breakaway, so maybe I can get in the group and defend the jersey.”
In the breakaway
Tjallingii put a Belkin team jersey into the day’s main breakaway. The hilly course traced the northern Irish coastline, and Tjallingii linked up with three other riders at 10km into the stage, and held off the chasing peloton until 3km to go.
“It was a good performance today by Maarten. He wanted to try for the breakaway. We knew it would be difficult to win, but he won the climber’s jersey, and was caught with only three kilometres to go, so we are happy with that,” said Belkin Sports Director Frans Maassen. “We had no problems with the other boys. We don’t have a true sprinter here, but Jetse will have his chances in the sprints, even though we’re not going to have anyone to help there. It was rainy today, but the team spirit was high. Everyone is excited to be racing.”
Belkin GC captain Wilco Kelderman crossed the line 20th, earning three seconds on some of his rivals due to a split in the bunch in the final dash to the line.
“It was rainy all day, but it was OK. It was a nice coast line here in Ireland, with big crowds, especially in the last 10km,” said Kelderman. “The roads are really good here. Tjallingii wanted to go in the breakaway, and go for the climber’s jersey, so it was a good tactic. We are waiting to return to Italy, and that’s when the hard stages begin. It’s nice to begin here in Ireland, but I like the good weather in Italy.”
One more day in Ireland
The 97th Giro continues Sunday with the third and final stage across Ireland. The 187km stage begins in Armagh and ends in Dublin, Ireland. There are a few hills in the opening section that should see a breakaway where Tjallingii can try again, but it’s likely the sprinter teams will take control of the stage once again.
“It should be another sprint stage tomorrow, and we will be ready to return to Italy,” said Steven Kruijswijk, who crossed the line 92nd. “It was safe and sound today. It was a little easier than I expected, because there was less wind than we expected. We got in safe, and we saved as much energy as we could. It’s been a good beginning of the Giro for us so far.”
Belkin’s riders and staff will fly Monday morning to southern Italy during the first of three rest days. The 97th Giro clicks back into gear Tuesday with the shortest stage in this year’s Giro, 112km from Giovinazzo to Bari. Another bunch sprint will be in the cards.