Marcel Kittel sprinted to a second straight stage victory in a wet third leg of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday while Michael Matthews retained the overall leader's pink jersey.

Kittel looked to have left it too late on his 26th birthday after losing contact with his rivals inside the final kilometre. But the German cyclist came from behind to edge out Ben Swift on the line and deny the Briton a maiden Grand Tour stage victory. Kittel finished in four hours 28 minutes 43 seconds.

Elia Viviani was third in a bunch sprint at the end of the 187-kilometre cross-border leg from Armagh to Dublin.

Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C., was 74th while Victoria's Ryder Hesjedal finished 96th. Tuft is in a four-way tie for fourth in the overall standings while Hesjedal is tied for 156th.

Matthews — whose Orica-GreenEdge team won Friday's opening time trial — will lead the race back to Italy and the Australian has an eight-second advantage over Italian cyclist Alessandro Petacchi.

Rain fell intermittently for most of the day and wet roads caused several crashes, including two large ones, but all the riders were able to continue. Former winner Michele Scarponi was one of the riders caught up in a large crash around 60 kilometres from the finish.

Several cyclists also suffered technical problems and Swift briefly dropped off the back of the peloton when he had to change his bike with 25 kilometres to go.

Maarten Tjallingii, who is still wearing the blue King of the Mountains jersey, led for most of the stage for the second day in a row. He was part of an early breakaway of five riders, along with Yonder Godoy, Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez, Gert Dockx and Giorgio Cecchinel.

They had a lead of six minutes before the peloton started reeling them in with more than 100 kilometres remaining.

Their advantage briefly increased as the peloton slowed to wait for riders involved in the major crashes to catch up, but the group was back together with more than seven kilometres remaining after a brief solo escape from Cecchinel.

After three wet days in Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Giro takes a rest day on Monday as it travels back to Italy.

The Giro ends in Trieste on June 1.