Marcel Kittel has insisted he will not be flustered by the rain and winds that are expected to batter the peloton over the Giro d’Italia’s next two days in Ireland.
Today’s second stage takes the riders on a flat loop starting and finishing in Belfast, while Sunday’s third stage travels from Armagh to Dublin and is also likely to finish in a bunch sprint.
Giant-Shimano rider Kittel is fancied to win on at least one of the days, but the form book could potentially be ripped up by the fact that both stages spend significant amounts of time skirting coastline and could consequently be exposed to crosswinds.
That threat is compounded by a forecast for heavy rain on both days, but Kittel is adamant that he does not fear the elements.
The German said: “The weather is probably not perfect. There is no sunshine and it looks like there will be a lot of wind and rain, but we are prepared for every situation.
“Both stages two and three spend a lot of time beside the coast and so there is a strong chance of crosswinds, but we are not afraid of them.”
Kittel will ride the Giro for the first time and is looking to duplicate his performance at last year’s Tour de France, when he won four stages and also spent a day in the leader’s yellow jersey.
Those successes lifted him above Mark Cavendish as the rider widely recognised as the best sprinter in the world and will also see him start the Giro as favourite to dominate the flat stages.
However, the 25-year-old German is refusing to set himself a target for stage wins.
He added: “I am confident and happy with my form, and I am looking forward to my first Giro. I hope we can make it a special one.
“I haven’t set a target for stage wins. It would wrong to start a race like that and I never do that. I just want to perform as well as possible.
“It is no secret that I am here for stage wins, but first I need to see how well I can start the race and how quickly I can find my rhythm.”