Five things we learned from stage two of the Giro d’Italia
Greipel claims his first pink jersey; Pöstlberger enjoys the limelight; peloton takes it easy; Teklehaimanot climbs high; and Zakarin gets the bad breaks
André Greipel adds another milestone to his bulging palmarès
He also continues his extraordinary run of winning a stage in each of the 12 Grand Tours he has started since 2008.
Once had had managed to position himself towards the front in what was a far cleaner, more strung-out run-in to the finish than he had faced the day before, victory always looked likely. He duly delivered with a typically powerful finish to win the sprint and take over at the top of the general classification.
The speed Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) showed before being unbalanced after a coming together with Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) suggested that the young Australian might at the very least have pushed Greipel very close. It will be intriguing to see the two go head-to-head in a straight sprint, possibly at the end of tomorrow’s flat stage.
Pöstlberger enjoys his day in pink
Bora-Hansgrohe cannot have anticipated spending stage two of the Giro having to take the responsibility of controlling the bunch in defence of the pink jersey, but they rose to the challenge, even as their sprinter Sam Bennett was dropped off the back.
Pöstlberger himself did not give up the jersey easily, moving to the front of the bunch in the final kilometre in attempt to mix it up with the sprinters and possibly finish high enough to stay in pink.
But it was clear that sprinting is not the Austrian’s natural forte, and he quickly faded down the bunch as Greipel swallowed up the necessary bonus seconds to take the race lead.
The pink jersey was not the only classification lead lost by Bora-Hansgrohe, with the blue (mountains) and purple (points) jerseys both changing hands too – but the team do retain the best young rider through Pöstlberger.
Another slow day at the Giro
For the second stage in succession it was a very slow day of racing, with the riders yet again reaching the finish line substantially behind the expected time of arrival.
Like yesterday the conditions played a part, with a cross/headwind blowing against the peloton, but it was nevertheless clear that the riders were taking it relatively easy, no doubt anticipating a tough three weeks of racing ahead.
The undulating parcours had looked like it would encourage attacks from non-sprinters eyeing up both a stage win and the chance to wear the pink jersey, but even when the day’s break was caught with over 40km to go, no such moves were made, as riders contented themselves with waiting for a bunch sprint.
Teklehaimanot provides the day’s excitement
It had been expected that the category two climb submitted 47km from the finish would provide a launch-pad for riders seeking a stage win, but no such attacks came into fruition.
Thankfully, there was enough drama in the King of the Mountains Classification to keep things interesting. On the climb Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data) traded blows with his escape companions Evgeny Shalunov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and Ilia Koshevoy (Wilier Triestina), knowing that the jersey was within his grasp.
The bunch bore down on them as the summit approached, and it looked as though all three might be swallowed up, but Teklehaimanot managed one last attack to solo to the top and take maximum points, holding off the peloton by a matter of seconds to take the jersey.
The Eritrean is becoming a specialist at targeting the mountains classification during the first few days of a Grand Tour, having become the first African to wear the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France two years ago. That achievement ensured he returned home to a celebratory parade in Eritrea; he can expect a similar hero’s welcome this time around.
Bad luck strikes Zakarin
Fortune plays a large part in managing to negotiate the many pitfalls of a Grand Tour first week, and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) was found severely lacking in it when he suffered a mechanical just as the sprinters’ teams were winding up their lead-out trains with 7km to go.
His team-mates did a fine job, with what looked like the entire roster dropping back to help him return to the peloton. They succeeded, but wasn’t the end of the story, as Zakarin was unable to make the first group when the bunch split in the finale, losing 20 seconds to all his major GC rivals.
That may not sound like too much time in the grand scheme of things, and on the whole disaster was averted, but no rider welcomes the stress of such a situation, and it cannot have helped his morale.