TEAM Sky’s 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.
Italian Viviani edged out Dutchman Moreno Hofland by half a wheel to claim his first win in a grand tour. German sprinter Andre Greipel went too early and finished third.
“It’s incredible to win my first stage in the Giro,” Viviani said. “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 [The Tour de] Yorkshire, and when he appeared I thought he would win. But I knew the final metres were uphill, and I knew when to go.”
Australian Matthews, part of the Orica Green-Edge team that won Saturday’s team time-trial, finished seventh on the mainly flat, 177-kilometre (110-mile) 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 favourite Alberto Contador, seven seconds behind.
“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,” Matthews said. “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 2km 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 90km remaining.
The advantage was cut to around four minutes as Lindemann led the breakaway group over the crest of the only categorised climb of the day, with 56km to go.
The Tinkoff-Saxo team of Contador upped the pace and started shredding riders at the back of the peloton as they 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 9.5km finishing circuit. Owsian and Zhupa pulled away from the rest of the break with Owsian the last to be caught.
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, 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 136-km (84.5-mile) route from Rapallo to Sestri Levante.
The 98th Giro ends on 31 May in Milan.