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05:23:47

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Cimolai pips Sagan for second

Israel Start-Up Nation have two riders in the top five in Davide Cimolai and fifth-placed Paddy Bevin sandwiching Peter Sagan and Elia Viviani. Fernando Gaviria was seventh. That could put Viviani into the ciclamino - although Van der Hoorn's win could also do that, or Merlier's tally from yesterday - we'll have to wait and see. As for pink, Filippo Ganna finished safely in the pack to retain his lead on the 90th anniversary of the maglia rosa.
Giro d'Italia
Inside the Race: Southam on Bettiol's Stage 18 win at Giro d'Italia
05/10/2021 AT 15:24
And that lovely reaction from today's unlikely winner...

Victory for Taco van der Hoorn!

What a ride! The Dutchman can't believe it! He's still in utter disbelief... He rounded the final corner and crested the final rise to the line - and although the pack were closing in fast, he knew the win was his after turning round to survey the scene. The Giro debutant put his hand over his mouth in disbelief before punching the air - what a quite incredible win for the 27-year-old!

Last kilometre!

The two chasers have been caught but Taco van der Hoorn still has 15 seconds! He could do it! Viviani, Sagan, Gaviria and Davide Cimolai are all near the front...

3km to go: This is going to go to the wire!

Taco has 18 seconds on the two chasers and 30 seconds on the pack. They will be much fresher than the Dutchman and you sense that he could either pull it off - or be upset quite cruelly with just metres to spare. Will he regret having dropped Pellaud when he did? We'll never know. Well, we will - if he wins, there'll be no regrets whatsoever.

5km to go: Lone leader suffering

It's only his second Grand Tour and he could have a stage win... But Van der Hoorn is going to die a thousand deaths between now and the finish. He has 25 seconds over Ciccone and Gallopin with the peloton - finally coming into life with an injection of pace from Gaviria's UAE Team Emirates - 40 seconds down and closing in fast.

6km to go: Cofidis rally for Viviani

What a turn up for the books this would be if Taco van der Hoorn pulls off the impossible. The Dutch lone ranger now has a minute over the pack, which is in disarray. The peloton are paying the consequences of not helping out Bora - and now Cofidis lend a belated hand for their man Elia Viviani. Van der Hoorn meanwhile has hit the final climb - and he's pulling a series of quite stellar pain faces. Pellaud has been caught by Ciccone and Gallopin - but they're still 37 seconds in arrears.

9km to go: Van der Hoorn goes clear!

The Dutchman has ridden clear of Pellaud - and that's a surprise because they were combining well and were even opening up their lead. The Swiss looks to be in a world of pain now after being knifed in the back by Van der Hoorn. He has 37 seconds on the chasing trio with the peloton 45 seconds back and breathing down their necks.

12km to go: Gallopin targeting grand slam

Tony Gallopin has stage wins at the Tour and Vuelta so this would complete the collection should the Frenchman pull things off. He, Ciccone and Van der Hoorn are 23 seconds down on Pellaud and Van der Hoorn with the peloton another 15 seconds back. Sagan was feeling the pinch before the summit but managed to hold on - but so too did the likes of Viviani and Gaviria. It's actually quite a large main field so it's still up for grabs.

15km to go: Attacks from the pack!

With Bora unable to set a pace so high as to drop Sagan, a few moves come in thick and fast: Tony Gallopin and Giulio Ciccono manage to make theirs stick as the duo open up a small gap. Pellaud leads Van der Hoorn over the summit with Zoccarato dropped. The other two escapees are caught before the top with Ciccone leading that duo over about 20 seconds down.

16km to go: Break blown apart

Pellaud and Van der Hoorn have ridden clear of the other three escapees on these hairpins-through-vineyards climb to Guarene, where the second intermediate sprint will come. Ah, they've been joined by Zoccarato so we have three out now battling for bonus seconds and breakaway points (there are no maglia ciclamino points up for grabs on the second intermediates). They still have the 15% ramp that goes up to the line as Bora put Matteo Fabbro and Emanuel Buchmann on the front for Sagan.

20km to go: Bora Bora Bora

It's still six Bora-Hansgrohe riders pulling on the front as the pack enters Alba with a deficit of one minute on the break. They're going all in for Sagan but does the former triple world champion have enough gas in the legs to deliver? They've managed to drop all the major sprinters except Fernando Gaviria and Elia Viviani but there are still two more climbs which could whittle things down a little. Well, a lot actually, given the gradients and what's at stake.

30km to go: Gougeard dropped

Just five clear now after Alexis Gougeard is tailed off. The gap is 1'20" back to the front peloton which has a large secondary peloton fighting to rejoin following the splits on that last climb. The second intermediate sprint comes up in 15km but 'sprint' is very misleading: it comes at the top of a ramp which peaks out at 15%. So we can expect a lot more shuffling before the finish.
Here's that intermediate sprint:

36km to go: Pellaud takes the points

Samuele Zoccarato made a move near the summit to open up a gap over his fellow escapees. The Italian was caught by Pellaud just ahead of the summit and it was the Swiss who pocketed the points as the two riders rode on to tackle the descent with a gap over the chasers. The pack comes through at 1'30" and while it looks like Sagan's the favourite, he's also still got Gaviria on his wheel and, judging by his facial expressions, he's also suffering a fair bit...

39km to go: Cat.4 Manera

Ponomar has just been swept up by the Bora-led pack after his steep learning curve today. Meanwhile, his former breakaway companions are well onto the next climb around 1'45" up the road. The latest rider to be dropped is Eduardo Affini, the white jersey and second on GC this morning. The elastic is stretching for the European champion Nizzolo, who's holding on - but only just. Even Sagan looks to be in a world of pain as he winces on the back of the Bora train on the front of the pack.
And that's it - Nizzolo has been dropped, and he has Bora's Cesare Benedetti sandbagging him. So, another one bits the dust... but still holding Sagan's wheel with aplomb is the figure of Fernando Gaviria. He looked pretty strong yesterday until being driven into the barriers by teammate Max Richeze in a bit of a sprint bungle. Rivi has now been caught as well so just the six men up the road.

45km to go: Albanese doubles up

The Italian takes the maximum 3pts going over the summit to consolidate his lead in the blue jersey standings - and he continues his attack going over the top, to string out the break. After a little shuffle it comes back together save for Rivi who, like Ponomar, has been distanced. It's Rivi's 23rd birthday tomorrow and he's been doing a great job for his teammate Albanese so far.
Behind, Caleb Ewan was dropped near the summit while Giacomo Nizzolo was rooted to the back of the bunch. Elia Viviani is still there for Cofidis, though, and Fernando Gaviria, as Bora continue paving the way for their man Sagan. Two minutes for the six leaders now.

48km to go: Merlier dropped!

And it looks like yesterday's winner Tim Merlier, the maglia ciclamino, won't be contesting the sprint today: the Belgian is among the rafts of riders being distanced now that Bora-Hansgrohe have upped the tempo on the front of the pack. David Dekker, the promising Dutch sprinter from Jumbo-Visma, has also been dropped.
Back with the break, Andrii Ponomar has lost the wheel. He's digging deep but it's unlikely he'll be able to fight back - especially with another climb almost immediately following this one.

50km to go: Cat.4 Castino

Under the 50km banner go the eight leaders whose lead is down to three minutes as they hit the second categorised climb of the day. It would be a surprise to see any of these eight riders feature in the finish today, but you can never day never... What is certain is that the move will break up soon because some are clearly more tired than others - and these rolling roads through the Langhe vineyards are draining.
Meanwhile, Thomas De Gendt is off the back off the pack for Lotto Soudal. It's no doubt part of the Dutchman's ploy to lose enough time to secure his ticket into a breakaway later in the race. He didn't win a Grand Tour stage last year so he'll be wanting to make up for that this year.

60km to go: Peloton back together

There were a few splits in the pack following that climb and the crashes on the descent - with Dylan Groenewegen one of the riders distanced. But it's back together now - and even Manuel Beletti, the Italian who came off worst in that crash, is there, hanging onto the back with a bloodied elbow. The break's lead is 3'20".

Ponomar almost stacks it!

The 18-year-old almost did a Beloki there... It's a narrow and twisting descent and Ponomar really misjudged that corner as he strove to rejoin the leaders. His back wheel fishtailed twice and almost threw the Androni tyro to the asphalt. Ponomar then overcooked the bend and almost went off the edge and down a slope into a vineyard... That was a big scare - but he showed great calm to stay up. He'll need a new pair of bib shorts, mind.
Meanwhile, back in the pack there's a touch of wheels that brings down a rider apiece from Trek and Qhubeka. Then there's a secondary fall involving the Italian veteran Manuel Belletti of EOLO-Kometa and he's in a bad way. He eventually stood back up but it remains to be seen if he can continue.

67km to go: Albanese retains blue jersey

That man Simon Pellaud put in the first attack around 1km from the summit and that forced a reply from the man in blue, Vincenzo Albanese, and the Dutchman Lars Van den Berg. When the summit approached it was the EOLO-Kometa rider Alabanese who easily kicked clear to take the maximum 9pts ahead of Van den Berg and Pellaud, with Gougeard taking the remaining point for fourth. So, provided the Italian finishes today he will be in blue again tomorrow.
Behind, Ewan has fought back to rejoin the tail of the peloton as the pack goes over 3'27" down. Ponomar, the youngster from Ukraine who bridged over to the break earlier today, is about 10 seconds back after feeling the pinch a little on the climb after his early dig.

69km to go: Ewan in trouble

The Australian pocket-rocket has already been distanced by the pack on this climb. Ewan could only take 10th place yesterday and this is confirmation that he's not in as good as form as he was earlier in the year when he excelled on the Poggio before almost winning Milan-Sanremo. Could be a long two hours in the saddle for the Lotto Soudal rider...

72km to go: Cat.3 Piancanelli

We're onto the third-category climb of Piancanelli which winds its way through woodland and vineyards via some lovely hairpin bends. It's 7.6km long with an average gradient of 4.8% with a maximum 9pts available up top. If Albanese can go over in pole position, he is guaranteed to keep the blue jersey - provided he finishes today's stage. An early dig comes from Pellaud's teammate Ponomar, the youngest rider of the race, but it comes to nothing.

75km to go: Pellaud wins intermediate sprint

It's the Swiss rider Simon Pellaud who takes the spoils at the intermediate sprint at Canelli ahead of Zoccarato. When the peloton comes through around 3'30" down there's a bit of a misunderstanding on Giacomo Nizzolo's part, the Italian sprinter darting clear in pursuit of the remaining ciclamino points... which don't exist. All the points were taken by the eight escapees and so Nizzolo has a bit of egg on his face. Needless to say, none of the other sprinters took the bait. His reasoning is clear: Nizzolo trails Tim Merlier by 15pts in the classification following the Belgian's win ahead of the Italian yesterday.

95km to go: Gougeard stands out

A reminder of the eight men in this break: Alexis Gougeard (Ag2R-Citroen), Simon Pellaud and Andrii Ponomar (both Androni Giocattoli), Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF), Vincenzo Albanese and Samuele Rivi (both EOLO-Kometa), Lars van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert).
The only Grand Tour stage winner of the escapees is the Frenchman Gougeard, who soloed to stage 19 glory in the 2015 Vuelta. Switzerland's Pellaud is a regular fixture in a Giro breakaway but he's never finished higher than fifth place in the first Grand Tour of the season.

105km to go: approaching Asti

The breakaway is riding into the centre of Asti, renowned for its sparkling wine. Their lead has been slashed to 4'30" with the first of two intermediate sprints - plus those three categorised climbs - still to come. Bora-Hansgrohe and Alpecin-Fenix have a rider each on the front ahead of the Ineos train.

All change at Deceuninck Quick-Step?

Sam Bennett has been in the wins for Deceuninck Quick-Step this season but could it be his last on the Belgian team? The green jersey winner is in his final year of contract and manager Pat Lefevere has gone out to declare that Quick-Step don't have the funds to pay the Irishman's salary. The inference was that Bennett is asking for more money given his form and current reputation as the fastest man in the pack and so he may price himself out of a future at Quick-Step.
Of course, that could spark up the rumours that Peter Sagan is on his way in - but you'd imagine the Slovakian would command an even bigger salary than his former Bora teammate. In any case, Quick-Step will be in the hunt for a new sprinter especially with question marks still around Fabio Jakobsen and Alvaro Hodeg.
Also at Quick-Step, Lefevere confirmed that Portugal's Joao Almeida will not stay at the team next year. It's peculiar timing for such a declaration given the 22-year-old - fourth in last year's Giro - is the co-leader at the Giro right now. Whether that affects his performances remains to be seen - it will be interesting to see if Remco Evenepoel's push for pink in his maiden Grand Tour is favoured over his Almeida's...

Can Evenepoel and Almeida work together as Deceuninck joint-leaders?

125km to go: Sprint or no sprint?

A lot will depend on how the climbs in the second half of this stage are ridden. On paper, you'd think that many of the pure sprinters - like Caleb Ewan, Elia Viviani and yesterday's winner, Tim Merlier - will be dropped, especially if Bora-Hansgrohe up the ante on those climbs for Peter Sagan. Without the likes of Van der Poel, Van Aert and Pidcock at the Giro, the Slovakian will have to fancy his chances. That said, look how well Ewan climbed up the Poggio in Milan-Sanremo... there'll be no discounting the Australian. But of course it could also be a day for riders like Diego Ulissi, Gio Visconti, Luis Leon Sanchez, Marc Soler, Gianni Moscon etc. Back to the first point - all depends on how the climbs are taken on.
The gap is still 5'40" for our eight leaders, who have been out since the 10km mark today.

138km to go: the rain has eased

Off come the jackets and - while there are still a fair few puddles on the side of the road - the asphalt also has patches of dry in places. How long it will last is another thing - but for now, the rain has stopped. Our breakaway is 5'40" ahead as they approach a couple of uncategorised bumps.

145km to go: eight men dreaming of pink

Beyond the stage win today there's also the maglia rosa up for grabs because all eight men in this break are within 1'29" of the race summit and currently have a gap of 6'05" on the pack. With the conditions as they are, it's not inconceivable that this move goes the distance - although you would very much expect them to be reeled in on those climbs provided the peloton keeps a lid on things. As yet there has been no reaction from the Ineos Grenadiers team of the current race leader, Filippo Ganna. But it's early days - and he won't be in a hurry to lose the pink just yet.

155km to go: a bit more on Ponomar

One of the first things Andrii Ponomar did once he bridge over was take off his rain cape - after his Androni teammate Simon Pellaud's instructions. It's very wet out there but it's amazing that the Ukrainian kept it on while making such an effort - he must have been roasting once he managed to join the leaders.
This is the Grand Tour debut for the rider who is 18 years and 245 days old - the youngest rider in the Giro since records began after the Second World War. He made his World Tour debut earlier this year in Milan-Sanremo where he came a solid 83rd exactly three minutes down on the winner Jasper Stuyven.

165km to go: foul weather in Piedmont

The rain continues to pound down on the peloton as Bora-Hansgrohe come to the front to help with the tempo setting. The gap is a huge 6'30" now for the eight leaders - but Bora's Peter Sagan is a man who likes these conditions, and the hilly final half of the stage will also suit his punchy attributes. Sean Kelly thinks the conditions and the terrain will make it very hard for any of the sprinters to survive today - and the Irishman has accordingly predicted a victory for Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana. It's quite a leftfield prediction but who am I to argue with a monumental legend of the sport - even if I've won as many editions of the Tour of Flanders as him...

175km to go: Van den Berg the virtual pink jersey

Dutchman Lars van den Berg is the virtual leader of the race. The 22-year-old Grand Tour debutant was 52 seconds down on GC going into the stage - but the gap for these eight leaders is now above the three-minute mark. It will be interesting to see how much they are given by the pack.
While we're talking jerseys, the blue jersey is being worn by that man Albanese (below) after he took the maximum 3pts points over the only climb yesterday. Today's stage has two fourth-category climbs and one third so that's 11 points by my reckoning. The Italian clearly wants to keep the blue tunic.

180km to go: seven riders clear

So, here are the names from the breakaway: Alexis Gougeard (Ag2R-Citroen), Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli), Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani-CSF), Vincenzo Albanese and Samuele Rivi (both EOLO-Kometa), Lars van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert). They have two minutes over the pack and there's one rider in pursuit - the 18-year-old Andrii Ponomar (Androni Giocattoli). The Ukrainian is the youngest rider in the race - indeed the youngest to ride the Giro since the Second World War - and his teammate Pellaud is imploring the other escapees to let the young buck bridge over.

190km to go: They're off

There's a flurry of attacks from the outset as Mauro Vegni waves his flag to get things going. The first ones come to nothing but another group has formed off the front. It looks like there are around eight riders ahead - and given the conditions, it won't be a surprise if the peloton lets this one go, provided it's the right mix.

Wet wet wet in beer country

Famous for its beer, Biella is also the gateway to the famous climb to the sanctuary at Oropa, where Marco Pantani picked up that memorable win the year the wheels fell of his bus in 1999. The riders will be happy to see the route head south away from that climb - but they won't be best pleased with the weather today: it's definitely one for the rain capes. The pack is currently trundling through the neutral zone while dodging the falling cats and dogs...

Ganna brings up the pink jersey's 90th

It's the 90th anniversary of the famous maglia rosa with Italy's Filippo Ganna the man in pink after his victory in Saturday's opening time trial. Ninety years ago, it was the Italian Learco Guerra who wore the first leader's jersey of the Giro d'Italia - which was made pink in homage to the head sponsor of the race back then, the sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, which to the day is still printed on pink paper.
Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers leads compatriot Edoardo Affini by 13 seconds on GC, with the latter's Jumbo-Visma teammate Tobias Foss in third place at 16 seconds. Deceuninck Quick-Step duo Remco Evenepoel and Joao Almeida complete the nascent top-five at 20 seconds after solid starts to the race in Turin. That man Affini is in the white jersey as best young rider - although he's just keeping it warm for his compatriot Ganna.

Stage 3: A tale of two halves

Today's third stage is a 190km schlep from Biella to Canale which opens with a long and largely flat ride south before a series of lower-category climbs pepper the approach to the finish, which is located deep in the heartlands of hazelnut country. Those climbs may ensure that the pure sprinters are off the back and could open the door to the likes of Peter Sagan, Giacomo Nizzolo and Diego Ulissi to open their accounts. Here's the profile...
https://i.eurosport.com/2021/02/06/2985933.jpg

'Peter Sagan playing bumper cars' – How the big-name sprinters fared on Stage 2

Stage 2 provided us with a first look at the sprinters who will battle it out over the next month at the Giro d'Italia, with some performing better in the first bunch gallop than others.
While Tim Merlier is nothing like an overnight success, it is nevertheless his first Grand Tour stage win at the first time of asking and this certainly makes him a ‘new’ face in race.
If Alpecin-Fenix are the happiest team on Sunday night, there are plenty feeling not-so-chipper too, with under-performances from a couple of the biggest names in the sprinting pack. Tom Owen looked at the sprinting pack to examine the situations.

'Like a boxing match' - Wiggins defends Sagan for 'shoving' rivals

Peter Sagan (Bora–Hansgrohe) should be free to continue with his cavalier style after bumping and barging his way into position at the Giro d’Italia, Eurosport expert Bradley Wiggins has said. The Slovakian was spotted moving other riders out of his path so he could latch onto the back wheel of teammate Daniel Oss as he geared up for the final sprint on Stage 2.
Sagan, who was not penalised for his moves, finished fifth as Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) won on his Grand Tour debut. The 31-year-old, who won a stage at last year’s race, is one of the favourites for the maglia ciclamino.
“Part and parcel of being a good bike rider is the way you handle yourself, the way you can handle your bike at those speeds,” Wiggins said on The Breakaway on Eurosport.
If it was easy, everyone would be taking part in the sprints.
“Obviously what we don’t like seeing are the crashes that come with it and, sometimes, the repercussions of those crashes.
“I would change the race course and not the riders. They’re going to race like that. It’s like a boxing match – you know two guys are going to try and kill each other.
“You set the environment around it to give them [the riders] the safest thing.”

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