Lukas Pöstlberger takes stunning Giro d’Italia win with dramatic late attack
Austrian rider takes pink jersey with surprise attack
Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) took a surprise victory on stage one of the Giro d’Italia with dramatic attack in the final kilometres.
The Austrian rider seemed to be working as a lead-out man for team-mate Sam Bennett, but found himself with a few metres gap on the bunch with two kilometres to go.
As other lead-out trains hesitated behind, Pöstlberger simply rode away, opening an advantage of a handful of seconds going into the final kilometre.
The sprinters were finally organised behind, but it was too little too late, and Pöstlberger was able to take his hands off the bars in the final 50 metres to celebrate only his first Grand Tour stage win while a rapidly advancing Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) won the bunch sprint for second.
The result puts the Bora-Hansgrohe rider into the pink jersey, taking the race lead after the first Grand Tour stage of his career.
The opening stage of the 2017 Giro d’Italia saw the breakaway established with minimal fuss as a five-rider move went clear within the first 10km.
In the move were Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Marcin Bialoblocki (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Pavel Brutt (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina), who quickly opened a gap of more than seven minutes over a peloton setting a sedate pace under the Sardinian sun.
After a slow start the gap was brought back to under five minutes, before Benedetti out-sprinted Zhupa at the top of the first classified climb of the 2017 Giro d’Italia.
The second climb of the day to Trintà d’Agultu saw more action as Teklehaimanot attacked with a few kilometres to go to the summit. The Eritrean opened a decent gap on his breakaway companions, but was slowly hauled in by Benedetti and Zhupa, with Benedetti putting in a big sprint in the final few hundred metres to take maximum points.
That acceleration was enough to distance Maestri and Bialoblocki, and although the CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider was able to regain contact with the break, Maestri dropped back to the peloton.
Once the peloton was through the feed zone with 92km to go, the chase began in earnest as the breakaway quickly lost a minute of their lead with Quick-Step Floors, BMC Racing, and Orica-Scott led the main group.
The only intermediate sprint on stage one came with 32km and was taken by Teklehaimanot, before the break moved onto the final classified climb of the day with their advantage now below two minutes.
As was the case on the previous climb Bialoblocki was dropped earlier, and as was also the case on the previous climb it was Benedetti who took the points at the top, securing himself the blue climber’s jersey for the end of the day.
Entering into the final 10km the remains of the break held an advantage of just over half a minute over the peloton led by Bahrain-Merida and Movistar who were looking after their GC contenders in Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana.
Through the next few kilometres the speed was steadily ramped up as the sprint trains began to battle for dominance at the front of the peloton, and the break was finally caught with just 3.5km to go.
UAE Team Emirates set the pace as there was trouble behind as Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) came to a halt on a tight corner when his crank came off.
When UAE faded it was Pöstlberger went to the front, opening a small gap over the Orica-Scott riders behind him, who hesitated to close the gap.
Pöstlberger, his team role being to lead out Sam Bennett, initially seemed unsure whether to push on, but with a few of seconds to play with going into the final 1.5km he had little choice but to go for broke.
Behind, Orica-Scott finally got organised to put Ewan in prime position in the peloton, but it was too little too late as Pöstlberger was able to hold on to the race, despite sitting up for a slightly premature celebration with 50m to go which must have put a few hearts in mouths for Bora-Hansgrohe fans.
The result means that Bora-Hansgrohe hold all of the race jerseys heading into tomorrows second stage, a 208km stage from Olbia to Tortolì with two classified climbs to split the field.
Giro d’Italia 2017, stage one: Alghero to Olbia (206km)
1. Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-Scott
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
4. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
5. Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
7. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
8. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
9. Sam Bennett (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb, all same time
General classification after stage one
1. Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 5-13-25
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 4 secs
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, at 6 secs
4. Pavel Brutt (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo, at 8 secs
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 10 secs
6. Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
7. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
8. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
10. Sam Bennett (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, all same time