German champion Pascal Ackermann won a high speed bunch sprint to claim victory on stage two of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, edging home favourite Elia Viviani at the line in Tuscany.
Slovenian Primoz Roglic retains the overall lead for a second day ahead of Britain’s Simon Yates as the peloton finished together after a 205km run from Bologna to Fuceccio, just east of Pisa.
Ackermann, of the Bora-hansgrohe team, crossed the line his arms aloft after 4hrs 44mins and 43sec in the saddle to snatch his first stage win on his Giro debut.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider Viviani, winner of four stages last year, was just behind along with Australian Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal.
The 25-year-old’s Bora team have been having an unprecedented season with 21 wins so far — just one by Slovak team leader Peter Sagan — compared to five in 2017 and six in 2018 for the German outfit.
Ackermann said his victory bodes well for the team’s ambitions at the finish line in Verona on June 2.
“It was my first chance to win a stage and we achieved it straight away.
It’s good for the next three weeks,” said the German.
“I chose the right moment to sprint from 250 meters to go. To win the first stage of my first Grand Tour is fantastic.”
– Grim conditions –
The race started under heavy rain with the weather clearing for the more technical final 50km on the first road stage of this year’s race.
Eight riders were involved in an early breakaway from the north-east, building up an advantage of up to four minutes.
The remaining four — Francois Bidard, Giulio Ciccone, Marco Frapporti and Lukasz Owsian — were caught seven kilometres from the finish line.
Ackermann launched his attack at full speed with a rear wind, with Viviani reacting slower missing out despite clocking 72.1 km/h in the sprint.
Overall race leader Roglic, who took the pink during Saturday’s short time trial, said he had not enjoyed the rain.
“It wasn’t an easy day because it was cold from the beginning and also quite fast all the time,” he said of the pacey 43.2km per hour average speed of racing.
“It’ll be another day in the pink jersey tomorrow. The team worked hard for that. It’s a pleasure to retain the jersey,” said the former champion ski-jumper.
Roglic holds the overall race lead 19sec ahead of Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates with Italy’s former two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) third at 23sec.
“There were a lot of teams riding, and the guys did a great job of keeping me out of the wind so for me personally it was quite an easy day,” said Yates, who finished in 33rd position but among the leading group.
“There was a little bit of nerves on the climbs towards the finish, I think it was just the general nerves from the first day of a Grand Tour and people were just trying to stay safe.
“It kept splitting the bunch, especially with the heavy legs from the rain, but we all arrived safe to the finish.”
Monday’s third stage remains in Tuscany, getting underway in Vinci, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Italian master painter Leonardo da Vinci, who was born in the town, and covers 219km to Orbetello.
The mainly flat route should suit the sprinters who will have 400 metres along the Tyrrhenian Sea coast to test their legs.