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Having been positioned by Puccio and Eisel, Viviani timed his final kick perfectly  on the uphill finishing straight to beat Hofland and Greipel in the sprint on the second stage of the Giro d’Italia; Matthews is the new leader

Photo: Dubai Tour














10.05.2015 @ 17:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Elia Viviani (Sky) finally took his first Giro d’Italia stage win when he won the first battle between the sprinters in the 2015 edition of the Italian grand tour. Having been perfectly positioned by teammates Salvatore Puccio and Bernhard Eisel, he narrowly passed Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) on the uphill finishing straight while Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) finished seventh and took the overall lead.


Two years ago Elia Viviani had one of his biggest disappointments when he was narrowly beaten by Mark Cavendish in the first stage of the Giro d’Italia. Since then he has desperately been chasing that elusive victory in his home race but as he headed to Liguria for the start of the 2015 edition of the race, his account was still blank.


Going into the race, he knew that his opportunities in the event were limited as his new Sky team are mostly focused on the overall and team leader Richie Porte. However, he was still given the support of Bernhard Eisel and Salvatore Puccio in the finale of today’s first road stage that presented the first chance for the fast finishers.


Those two riders did everything perfectly to position their sprinter and finally things came together for Viviani who timed his sprint well to narrowly pass Moreno Hofland just before the line and open his Giro account.


The stage finished with two laps of a technical 9.5km finishing circuit that included a small climb and the nervous atmosphere and many turns made it a crash-marred affair. With 11km to go, a big crash brought down riders like Heinrich Haussler (IAM), Nikolay Mihaylov (CCC) and Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and split the field into several groups.


Tinkoff-Saxo were trying to avoid the carnage by riding on the front with Manuele Boaro, Ivan Basso, Ivan Rovny and Christopher Juul while other teams paid the prize for poor positioning. Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale) found himself in second group while Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) was even further back in a third group, forcing their two teams to chase hard.


Lukasz Owsian (CCC) was the final surviving member of the early breakaway but with 11km to go, he was brought back. Moments later, the 60-rider front group started the final lap and as they hit the climb it was Boaro who strung out the group.


The Hesjedal group made it back to the leaders on the lower slopes while the Tinkoff riders made it hard for Pozzovivo to get back. As they headed down the descent, Boaro took a huge turn before Matteo Tosatto took over for the Russian team.


The lead-out trains were waiting to hit the front in the hectic finale and the Tinkoff riders remained in control until 3km remained when Eisel, Puccio and Viviani hit the front. They were passed by Luca Paolini but he quickly stopped his effort as he had lost teammate Alexander porsev.


With 2km to go, Lampre-Merida took over as Roberto Ferrari, Maximilano Richeze and Sacha Modolo moved up. The former even got a small gap and this forced Boy van Poppel (Trek) to chase hard to bring him back.


Just after the flamme rouge, Orica-GreenEDGE took control with Brett Lancaster who put Michael Matthews in the perfect position. However, it was Richeze who won the battle and put Modolo in the perfect position.


Unfortunately, the Italian nearly went down in a crash which forced him to stop his effort and instead it was André Greipel who launched a long sprint with Moreno Hofland on his wheel. The big German started to fade and so the young Dutchman easily passed him and looked poised to take the win. However, Viviani had timed his sprint perfectly and he managed to pass his rival just metres from the line.


Matthews had been in a good position for the sprint but he drifted backwards and had to settle for seventh. As he was the best-placed Orica-GreenEDGE rider, he still got a consolation prize as he took over the maglia rosa from teammate Simon Gerrans.


Matthews is still equal on time with three of his teammates and he faces a tough challenge in the short third stage. The first two thirds include lots of climbing on narrow, twisting roads, with a very tough ascent summiting with 43.5km to go. From there, a long descent leads to a flat finish where a reduced sprint is expected.


One for the sprinters

After the opening team time trial, the sprinters were expected to shine in the first road stage of the race which brought the riders over 177km from Albenga to Genova. In a moderately hilly start, the riders tackled the Testico climb during the first 32km but after the descent, the riders hit the flat coastal road. Only a small category 4 climb with 53km to go was expected to slightly challenge the riders before the hit the 9.5km finishing circuit that would be covered twice and included a small 1km climb with an average gradient of 4%.


The riders had perfect weather conditions when they gathered in Albenga for the start of the race and all riders who reached the finish yesterday were present when they headed out on their neutral ride. Everybody knew that it was a day for the sprinters and so it was the first attack that created the foundations for the early break.


A big gap

Marco Frapporti (Androni), Lukasz Owsian (CCC), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Eugert Zhupa (Southeast) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) were the riders who joined the move and after 2km of racing, they already had an advantage of 2.30. After 6km of racing, it was 3.45 and when they passed the 10km mark, the escapees had extended the gap to 6.40.


The gap reached 8.11 after 16km of racing before Orica-GreenEDGE started to chase. They allowed the gap to grow to 9.02 at the 26km mark before they slowly started to reduce their deficit. At the top of the Testico climb, they had brought it down to 7.56.


Carretero abandons

Ramon Carretero (Southeast) was the first ride to abandon the race while Orica-GreenEDGE again slowed down. As they entered the final 100km, the gap had grown to a massive 9.47 and the Australians were still not getting any help.


Luke Durbridge finally started to chase for real and as he strung out the group, the gap started to come down. With 85km to go, the gap was down to 8 minutes as they headed through the feed zone.


The chase gets organized

That was the signal for the sprint teams to kick into action as Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin) started to chase with Durbridge. Later Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) also came to the fore while Durbridge was replaced by teammate Michael Hepburn. Finally, Tom Stamsnijder (Giant-Alpecin) also started to work.


Frapporti easily beat Zhupa, Lindeman, Berlato and Owsian in the first intermediate sprint while Trek gave Giacomo Nizzolo a full lead-out which allowed the Italian to easily take sixth. Stamsnijder, Ji, Armee and Hepburn went back to work and with 70km to go, the gap was only 6 minutes.


A fight for points

In the second intermediate sprint, Zhupa tried to launch a long sprint but he had no chance against Frapporti who beat Lindeman, the Albanian, Owsian and Berlato. Again Trek led Nizzolo out but this time he had to sprint against Viviani who narrowly edged hi out.


The gap was now down to 4.40 as Jerome Pineau briefly started to work for IAM. As soon as they hit the climb, however, he again disappeared from the front.


Lindeman takes the blue jersey

Just as Berlato launched an attack, Frapporti had a chain problem that saw him getting distanced. Zhupa was also dropped while the three remaining riders battled for the points. Owsian launched a long sprint but Lindeman was clearly faster and held off the Pole and Berlato to take the first mountains jersey.


Ji, Stamsnijder, Armee and Calvin Watso (Trek) were working on the front of the peloton as they went up the climb but the latter stopped his effort when Nizzolo had a mechanical that saw him get distanced. He had to chase hard to rejoin the peloton while Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) also found himself in chase mode as he was dropped on the ascent.


Tinkoff-Saxo take control

Near the top of the climb, Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front with Ivan Basso and Boaro as they wanted to keep Alberto Contador safe on the descent and they remained in control until they again hit the flat coastal road. Meanwhile, the five escapees were back together and they managed to stabilize the gap around 3.25.


A first crash brought down Enrico Barbin (Bardiani) and Sergey Chernetskii (Katusha) before Stamsnijder again started to chase. He was later joined by Watson and Kristof andewalle (Trek) and Armee also came back to the fore.


A big crash

With 37km to go, Watson swung off at a point when the gap was only 2.15. Instead, Ji went back to work but as the fight for position got serious with 30km to go, only Stamsnijder was left to do the work.


With 22km to go, a big crash brought down riders like Pelucchi, Haussler, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Porsev before Ji and Watson again hit the front. At the passage of the line, they had brought the gap down to 33 seconds.


The attacking starts

Dayer Quintana (Movistar) was the next rider to go down as Tinkoff-Saxo now took control with Juul, Rovny and Basso. At this point, Berlato launched the first attack from the breakaway but it was the counterattack from Owsian that worked.


Only Zhupa could follow the Pole while Lindeman and later also Berlato and Frapporti were caught. Moments later, Owsian distanced Zhupa for good while another big crash split the peloton and started the finale.



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