By Gregor Brown
Marcel Kittel completed his Grand Tour collection today with a stage win in the Giro d'Italia. He topped the first road stage of the 2014 race in Belfast, adding to his stage wins in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
"I'm proud to have a stage in every Grand Tour, it's a big relief, as well. That's a great achievement," Kittel said.
"What's also special is that we have riders in the team here that have helped me win those stages in the other Grand Tours, it's great to experience and enjoy that as a team."
The blonde German won in the Spanish Grand Tour in 2011 and collected four stages in the Tour de France last year. Mark Cavendish came away with two.
Cavendish suffered somewhat last year at the Tour due to a busy schedule. He raced the Giro d'Italia and took home the red points jersey, but the effort appeared to take its toll. This year, he skipped the Giro for the Tour of California.
Kittel, instead, decided to race the Giro for the first time in his four years as a professional. Already the decision has paid off. Along with Cavendish and André Greipel, he ranks among the most complete sprinters in cycling.
"It's your job to make the rankings, I won't do that!" Kittel said. "I know the riders I have to watch in the sprints and who I need to have an eye on. The two main guys are the German and the Brit, Greipel and Cavendish."
To win in his third Grand Tour, Kittel battled the wind and rain along the island's northeastern coast. In the last kilometres of the 219-kilometre stage, Cannondale took control for Elia Viviani and FDJ for Nacer Bouhanni. Kittel, however, charged up the left-hand side for a long sprint win in front of city hall.
"It's a big problem if you become arrogant and take winning for granted," he added. "It's hard work to win and we'll keep that in mind."
Kittel will try to win again tomorrow when the Giro's cyclists face another flat stage to Dublin and he turns 26 years old.
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