The in-form Etixx-QuickStep sprinter darted out of team-mate Fabio Sabatini's back wheel to soar clear of his rivals and secure his second successive win in the 190-kilometre stage from Nijmegen to Arnhem.
Italian duo Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) took a distant second and third place ahead of German veteran Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Russian Alexander Porsev (Katusha) on an incident-packed final day in the Lowlands.
Kittel, 27, moved into the race lead thanks to picking up another 10 bonus seconds at the finish. He now leads his former Giant-Alpecin team-mate Tom Dumoulin – the popular Dutch winner of the opening time trial on Friday - by nine seconds as the race takes a day off on Monday while travelling to south Italy for stage four.
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Kittel sprints to victory in stage three of the Giro

A series of crashes and some splits caused by blustery winds meant things were stressful despite the sunny conditions and party atmosphere of the Dutch countryside. French veteran Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2R-La Mondiale) was forced to withdraw from his maiden Giro d'Italia after crashing heavily on a roundabout, while a large pile-up in the closing circuit thwarted the chances of French sprinter Arnaud Demare.
Kittel’s latest Giro scalp was the fourth of his career and kept up his uncanny run of never having lost a road stage on this race – despite having yet to compete on Italian soil.
“To be honest, I would also love to win in Italy but it just happens that way. It’s my fourth stage of the Giro and also my first pink jersey – I’m really proud of this achievement,” said Kittel, who joins compatriot Rudi Altig as the most successful German rider in the history of the Giro.
“It was a super-tough day actually. The peloton was very nervous and the breakaway did well to stay out so long. My boys did a super-amazing job to position me so well in the final,” Kittel added.

Kittel wins again on stage three of Giro

If the home crowds saw their man Dumoulin lose the pink jersey then there were cheers aplenty for Dutch veteran Maarten Tjallingii, who not only fought into the day’s break for a second successive time but crested the summit of the only fourth-category climb of the day to secure the blue king of the mountains jersey.
LottoNL-Jumbo’s Tjallingii instigated the break shortly after the start of the largely pan-flat stage. The 38 year-old was joined once again by Italian youngster Giacomo Berlato, the aggressive Nippo-Vini Fantini who was the last man standing of Saturday’s stage two break, as well as South African Johann Van Zyl (Dimension-Data) and Spaniard Julen Amezqueta (Wilier-Southeast).
The quartet built up a maximum lead of over eight minutes as the peloton struggled with crosswinds and crashes. Peraud’s maiden Giro ended after the 38 year-old was brought down by Ag2R-La Mondiale team-mate Patrick Gretsch on a roundabout with 100 kilometres remaining.
The French veteran went over the handlebars and landed face first before being taken to hospital for treatment on a nasty cut on his cheek. It was a sad end to what may have been Peraud's last Grand Tour appearance: the 2014 Tour de France runner up was not scheduled to ride another major three-week race this season ahead of hanging up his cycling shoes.

Patrick Gretsch suffers in heavy crash at roundabout

Frequent pinch points as the roads narrowed caused sudden slowings and a series of small spills as the peloton struggled to stay intact as the Lotto-Soudal team of Greipel looked to take advantage of the wind.
A large crash in a wooded sector on the run into Arnhem took out half of Demare’s FDJ team, whereby denying Kittel the chance to compete against the man who had put up the biggest struggle a day earlier.
Demare did fight back into the pack to finish eighth, but it was Sky’s Viviani who pushed the German the most at the finish – although in truth the biggest threat to Kittel came not from any of his ostensible sprint rivals but by the doggedness of the last man standing in the break, Van Zyl.
The South African kicked clear of his fellow escapees on the second of two 14km finish circuits and rode with a gap of one minute over the pack entering the final 10km of the stage.
Van Zyl’s persistence saw Etixx-QuickStep move onto the front of the pack earlier than usual as Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels drove a fast tempo to ensure the Dimension Data rider was reeled in with 2km remaining.
It was then one-way traffic as Sabatini ushered Kittel – decked out entirely in red as the leader of the points classification – to the front of the pack, before pulling aside in the final kilometer to let Kittel bound clear.
Sabatini’s premature celebration said it all – the Italian punching the air before Kittel had reached the line to take the ninth win of his season and with it a pink upgrade on his red threads.
Kittel has yet to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia in Italy, his two previous wins having come in Belfast and Dublin. On the form he’s showing, that will all change on Tuesday when the race resumes with a 200km ride up the Mediterranean coast from Catazaro to Praia a Mare.
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