Elia Viviani timed his sprint to perfection to win the second stage of the Giro d’Italia yesterday, while Michael Matthews moved into the overall lead on a day marred by several crashes.
Viviani edged out Dutchman Moreno Hofland by half a wheel to claim his first win in a grand tour. Andre Greipel went too early and finished third.
“It’s incredible to win my first stage in the Giro,” said Team Sky’s Viviani. “We’re here for the general classification with Richie Porte but today the guys managed to protect Richie but also they worked for me.
“Hofland won a stage in Yorkshire, and when he appeared I thought he would win. But I knew the final meters were uphill, and I knew when to go.”
Matthews, part of the Orica Green-Edge team that won Saturday’s team time-trial, finished seventh on the mainly flat, 177km route from Albenga to Genoa to take the leader’s pink jersey from team-mate Simon Gerrans.
Matthews has the same time as Gerrans and team-mates Simon Clarke and Esteban Chaves at the top of the standings, with Roman Kreuziger leading a cluster of Tinkoff-Saxo team-mates, including race favorite Alberto Contador, seven seconds behind.
“It was a very technical stage finish and we knew that you had to be up front in the last kilometre,” said Matthews. “I decided to go early, because everyone was fighting for position. But the finish was really hard.
“It was a really special time for me to wear the Maglia Rosa last year, and to wear it for the second time is even sweeter. It was team work yesterday that got me where I am today, so I have to thank my team-mates for this magical feeling.”
There was an early break of five riders when Bert-Jan Lindeman, Marco Frapporti, Eugert Zhupa, Lukasz Owsian and Giacomo Berlato built a lead of more than a minute inside the opening 2K (1.2 miles) and stayed out front for most of the day.
The quintet stretched their lead to more than nine minutes before the peloton started to reel them in with 90K (56 miles) remaining. The advantage was cut to around four minutes as Lindemann led the breakaway group over the crest of the only categorized climb of the day, with 56K (35 miles) to go.
The Tinkoff Saxo team of race favorite Alberto Contador upped the pace and started shredding riders at the back of the peloton as it cut into the lead of the escapees.
Only 45 seconds separated the leaders from the peloton once it entered the first of the two laps of the technical 9.5K (6-mile) circuit. Owsian and Eugert Zhupa pulled away from the rest of the break with Owsian the last to be caught.
There There were several crashes on the tricky route, which included a rise to the finish line. Ryder Hesjedal and Domenico Pozzovivo were involved in one of several crashes yesterday, ending any outside chance the Italian had of winning the Giro.
Australian national champion Heinrich Haussler hit the ground twice while Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran, runner-up for the past two years, lost his key mountain team-mate Pieter Serry to a suspected broken collarbone.
Today’s third stage features medium hills and runs along a 136km route from Rapallo to Sestri Levante.
Giro d’Italia, Eurosport, 1.30