His performances in last year’s Tour de France marked him out as the quickest rider on the circuit, but Marcel Kittel is fully aware that sprinters need to keep proving their place in that pecking order. The Giant Shimano rider lines out in the Giro d’Italia determined to do just that, and will do what he can in the coming days to clock up his first wins in the race.

The tall German has already had a successful season, clocking up five victories to date. He started off on a high note by taking the Down Under Classic in January, then followed that up with three stage wins in the Dubai Tour plus a repeat win in Scheldeprijs.

Since then he took third in the opening time trial in the Tour de Romandie, missing his usual participation in the Presidential Tour of Turkey in order to follow what he believes was the best path to the Giro d’Italia.

“I’m now in the second section of my season, in which the highlight is the Giro,” said Kittel in Belfast. “I think I had a good start in the sprint. I can be confident with the results I got there and with the team I have here. That’s the goal for me, that’s the goal for the team and I’m looking forward to it.”

Although Mark Cavendish will miss the race, Elia Viviani took two stage wins in Turkey and declared his form perfect after the second of those. Kittel accepts that the Italian will be one of the biggest obstacles to success in the days ahead.

“I followed the results in Turkey and as you say he is in very good condition, as many other sprinters are too,” he said, when asked about the Cannondale rider. “We are aware of the fact that we have to concentrate on our sprint and focus on doing very good work to be able to win sprints at this race.”

It remains to be seen if he will complete the Italian Grand Tour. He will be aware that Mark Cavendish continued until the end last year, taking the points jersey, yet was arguably below his usual level in the Tour de France. Kittel didn’t disclose whether or not he will continue until the end, but made clear that the Giro is very important for him.

“My season is divided into more than two parts,” he explained. “After I finish the first part with Scheldeprijs, followed by a second phase where the Giro is one of the highlights, I want to be good here.

“I’m looking forward to my first start got get my first experience in this race, and with my team I’m very confident that we can do good things.”