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Ganna retains pink, ciclamino goes to Merlier
While, for his earlier exploits, Vincenzo Albanese will pull on the race's first blue king of the mountains jersey.
UCI Road World Championships: Full schedule and top riders
Just to correct the previous post, Viviani managed to pinch third from Groenewegen with a bike throw.
Tim Merlier wins the stage!
It's a dream debut for Merlier, he had way too much speed for the others and an almost-perfect line to the finish.
Nizzolo gets second, adding to his record tally of second-places. Seemed to be Groenewegen who bagged the final podium spot just ahead of Viviani, who had to check himself at about 200m out.
Caleb Ewan was absolutely nowhere.
And it's Ineos, Bora, Movistar and Qhubeka at the front. Trek also well-positioned.
Not sure what Movistar are doing, maybe they're lost.
5km to go – And now we're sucking diesel!
The bunch all throw their final bidons away in the designated litter zone with explosions of water in the air as a stray one hits a telegraph poles – and the riders are really rollicking along now.
15km to go – Broad roads
Big wide roadway for the sprinters to get themselves organised at the moment. Alpecin, Lotto and Trek are all prominent – as are Bahrain at the moment but that must surely be more about protecting Mikel Landa's GC than a sprint win.
Peter Sagan's Bora Hansgrohe have their man on the front of the peloton.
20km to go – Bonus seconds for Ganna, Evenepoel and Moscon
The break is caught, which gives the GC guys an opportunity to fight for a few more seconds. It's Ganna who takes maximum, followed by Evenepoel.
That's interesting because it brings the Belgian level with his Portuguese teammate Joao Almeida on 17". We have no idea who will be the leader of this squad as the race wears on.
Not long to go now until the fireworks of the finale begin to go off!
30km to go – 20 seconds the gap
It's all-but-over for our leading pair, now.
35km to go – Beyond the big three
We just saw a few of the less-fancied sprinters going for those intermediate sprint points, but Groenewegen, Ewan and Merlier all left it well alone. That's an interesting split in priorities. Some are here for stage wins, some are here to hunt the ciclamino jersey.
Peter Sagan is a strange name to be mentioning in a 'best of the rest', but the Slovakian has not been at his best this year or last. Elia Viviani as we've already mentioned, would dearly love to secure a Giro stage win for Cofidis, while the likes of Andrea Pasqualon and Fernando Gaviria will reliably bank top tens for their teams, but neither really look like taking that big W.
Giacomo Nizzolo is arguably one of the form riders for the year so far, and he could sneak something magnificent for his Qhubeka Assos team today. The fact he is Italian national champion would only make a result today taste sweeter. He actually holds an unenviable record of having the most second places without a stage win in Giro history.
40km to go – Ooops
Elia Viviani has just 'won' the battle for the intermediate sprint left over by the two breakaway riders.
Unfortunately, the Italian sat up at the wrong 'finish line', Gaviria comes round him and secures the top points for third place, with Viviani then in fourth.
Behind them, Pasqualon takes fifth and Sagan sixth. Tellingly, Caleb Ewan didn't sprint.
Lefevere would be an "idiot" to pick Cavendish over Bennett for the Tour
On air earlier, the chaps discussed the chances that the recent news Bennett is leaving Deceuninck at the end of this year might prompt Patrick Lefevere to look more kindly on Mark Cavendish.
Brian Smith put the idea to bed in typically direct style.
‘He would be an idiot’ – Bennett should lead TDF, not Cavendish, says Smith
45km to go – Gap at 1'43", Groenewegen to win on return?
The leading twosome continue to plug away as we enter the final hour of racing today. They still have that little carrot of the most aggressive rider to fight for, not to mention an intermediate sprint still to come.
Focused on larger goals, though, are the team of Jumbo-Visma, who ride today for their returning sprinter Dylan Groenewegen.
Groenewegen has had a high-profile ban for a crash he caused in Poland last year that badly injured Fabio Jakobsen, This is his first race back, and he will be looking to put that all behind him. He's one of the fastest riders in the world when fit, but we have no way of knowing yet his condition. He could win today's sprint at a canter – or he could drop away to an anonymous 20th.
More recently in the Poland saga, Jakobsen has accused his fellow Dutchman of lieing about making an apology.
55km to go – Merlier, 'the fastest man in Belgium'
Tim Merlier of Alpecin-Fenix is a quality sprinter and he has had a marvellous year so far, emerging as a sort of second string to that team's bow – with Mathieu van der Poel representing their main marquee name.
Whenever Merlier has been given the chance, he has excelled himself this season – taking wins in Le Samyn, Bredene Koksijde Classic and the GP Jean-Pierre Monseré, and even being dubbed the 'fastest man in Belgium'.
We'll see how he does today in Italy, and whether his comparatively inexperienced team can drop him off in a perfect position. Merlier himself is riding his first ever Grand Tour, and six of his seven teammates are also making their Giro debut.
60km to go – Ewan's to lose?
As the finish line begins to think about possibly hoving into view, it's time to think about the likely winners.
Caleb Ewan is the out-and-out favourite for today. It's a classic sprinter's finish and he is every-inch the classic sprinter. He has a solid team around him that will protect him for the final couple of kilometres, and if that leadout train can fire on all cylinders then it should be his stage to lose. Ewan has had a very bright 2021, with an impressive performance in Milan-Sanremo a few months back really serving to underscore his power and form. He was second there, winning the bunch sprint but failing to catch the opportunistic Jasper Stuyven. He has also won a stage of the UAE Tour, plus podiums in Tirreno and Valenciana.
That being said, Lotto-Soudal do not always get these things right – and Ewan could be left high and dry should they get their build-up wrong.
70km to go – And that's it for Albanese
The Italian has a mechanical which sees him drop from the breakaway. Instead of chasing back afterwards, he's sitting up and waiting to be caught by the bunch.
That leaves two riders in the lead, Filippo Tagliani (Androni) and Umberto Marengo (Bardiani).
84km to go – Albanese bags the jersey
And it's the rider from Eolo Komete who secures the race's first blue jersey as leader of the mountains classification. He had just a bit too much power for Tagliani, there, and basically lead-out the sprint. Tagliani never had the speed to get round him.
Well, that was a fun jolt of excitement! I'm off to make some lunch... 🥪
100km to go – The peloton is having lunch
While the three men up front scarf down scraps dispensed from the team cars, the men in the peloton can enjoy a leisurely three-course picked from their fluoro feedbags.
The gap has eked out a little again to 2'53". It's all very, very chilled out at the moment. We have the day's only classified climb soon at Montechiaro d'Asti, a chance to take the race's first blue jersey. It should go to one of these three escapees.
110km to go – Gap drops
With those sprint teams putting riders on the front to start chasing in earnest, the gap has tumbled dramatically – in fact, it has dropped to far as to become a bit problematic.
The advantage is now under two minutes, for the first time since the break broke. If it falls any further we might have an early catch and then some ensuing chaos.
As a result, the Eolo Kometa teammates of Vincenzo Albanese have all come to the front of the peloton, in what seems to be an attempt to get the speed of the peloton back down. Their efforts are rewarded with a 'nature break' in the peloton.
More on that Bennett story
Eurosport's Ben Snowball with the full details of that strange Bennett exit story.
125km to go – Changing of the guard
So the leaders of the peloton have changed after about an hour of languid not-really-chasing from the team of the maglia rosa.
Ineos have faded back a few positions now, and Thomas De Gendt from Lotto Soudal and Paul Mertens of Jumbo-Visma are at the front. The gap had just nudged over five minutes when these two sprint teams pushed a rider each up to the front – and they have since been joined by one representative of Alpecin Fenix.
The gap now is 4'35" to the escapees.
135km to go – Viviani looking at today like a classic
Elia Viviani of Cofidis is something of a faded force since his days of dominance with QuickStep, but he could do well today on this finish and get back to winning ways. He says today is like a one-day race.
150km to go – Peaceful progress
The breakaway has built a healthy little lead now. They have 3'41" on the peloton.
Breaking news... Bennett to leave Deceuninck
This is a big moment in the world of sprinting, Sam Bennett is set to leave Deceuninck-QuickStep after failing to reach a new contract agreement.
According to team boss Patrick Lefevere, the financial demands from the Bennett camp were too much. “He doesn’t want to leave, but I don’t have as much money as certain people."
170km to go – Gap established
And that certainly seems to be that. Tagliani, Marengo and Albanese are off up the road with 2'31" of advantage - and they're still building the gap.
Looks to me like a day where we could have ore than 10 minutes between break and bunch at some point.
The reason everyone is letting this go, by the way, is that it's a pan-flat sprint stage. The sprinters' teams will be very happy to idly control this break and reel it back with 20km to go, and maglia rosa Filippo Ganna will be happy to simply spin through the kilometres content that he'll be wearing pink again tomorrow.
179km to go – The flag drops
Immediately three riders go clear, one each from Androni, Eolo and Bardiani. The peloton looks completely uninterested.
These are the three Italian ProTeams, the second-tier squads invited as wildcards for the race. As such we expected all three teams to try and get in this – the first doomed break of the 2021 Giro.
Their names are: Filippo Tagliani (Androni), Umberto Marengo (Bardiani) and Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo Kometa)
Thoughts? Feeling? Emotions?
Get in touch over on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on the stage ahead. We've had some early controversy in the Giro Castelli competition already today.
A quick roundup
We've still a little while until kilometre zero so let's have a look at the big stories from yesterday's TT.
- 'He can win it, he's in the mix' - Bigham and Wiggins on Yates
- 'Ganna will have done damage' - Wiggins after opening Giro stage
- 'Real superstar' - Wiggins gives verdict on Evenepoel's opening stage
179km to go – Goooooood morning Stupinigi!
And welcome to the second stage of the 2021 Giro d'Italia!
After a pulsating time trial yesterday we are moments away from beginning the first road stage of the Il Giro this year. It's 179km and absolutely pan flat.
There will be at least one DNS today, after poor old Krists Neilands (Israel StartUp Nation) crashed after the stage on the way back to his hotel and ended up doing himself a mischief.
'He’s an absolute monster' - Wiggins raves about Ganna
Eurosport expert Bradley Wiggins has told The Breakaway that Filippo Ganna is "an absolute monster compared to the others" after his stunning showing on Stage 1 of the Giro d'Italia 2021.
"Ganna just epitomises this event," Wiggins told Eurosport at the end of the day's action.
"I wouldn’t say he’s the smoothest, most aesthetic looking rider. He rocks a lot but really gets the effort out.
He’s an absolute monster compared to the others. He’s a machine.
"He reminds me a bit of Fabian Cancellara – aesthetically he wasn’t the most beautiful and finessed but when he wins, he wins big and it’s brilliant to watch."
'Ganna is an absolute monster' - Wiggins on 'great to watch' Italian
Recap from Stage 1
Ineos rider Filippo Ganna stormed home in a time of 8'47" to take the Maglia Rosa in style ahead of Edoardo Affini and Tobias Foss (both Jumbo Visma).
Ganna was the star of the show on day one of the Giro in front of the Turin supporters as the Italian demonstrated his class to lead the opening standings.
Re-Cycle: 'A victory lasts forever' – When Cipollini broke Binda’s Giro record
Alfredo Binda’s mark of 41 stage wins in the Giro stood for 70 years, until Mario Cipollini went one better. With a flair for the flamboyant and a penchant for the beach, Cipo made headlines and history but few friends during his controversial career. Felix Lowe grabs the tail of the legend of the Lion King. You can read the full story here or listen to the Re-Cycle podcast on your favourite platform right now, but here is an excerpt to whet the appetite:
- - -
It is one of the peculiar quirks of a stat-heavy sport that sees us compare the incomparable. Drawing from more than a century of races, when a long-standing record falls, we can pit one of the Giro d’Italia’s most complete riders with a man who took specialising in sprinting to a new level of niche.
But when Mario Cipollini soared to successive stage victories in the 2003 Giro, the man they called the Lion King equalled, then surpassed, a mark set in 1933. Some 14 years after he’d carved the first notch in his Giro bedpost, Cipo wrote his name into the record books in the rainbow bands he’d won seven months earlier at Zolder.
The author of that 70-year record was Alfredo Binda, a rider known as “cycling’s first cannibal”. In his book, Giro d’Italia – the Story of the World’s Most Beautiful Bike Race, Colin O’Brien describes the first man to win five editions of the race as “a rider of unparalleled ability, of such unique talent that he dominated almost every race he entered”.
Such was Binda’s vice-like grip on his national race, the organisers even had to pay him not to turn up one year. Most people thought his record would stand forever – until a machine seemingly designed for the sole purpose of winning Giro stages came along, all muscles, hair gel and macho flamboyance.
On the surface, the cold and detached Binda was a man who had about as much in common with the charismatic Cipollini as a smooth Barolo to Grappa. One was a champion vintage to savour long on the lips, another a coarse digestif enjoyed – if that’s the word – at the very end of a meal, something that came and went in a matter of seconds. And, once it hit the spot, it left behind a bad aftertaste. But as we will see, Cipollini's story is far more than that of a winning machine as allegations and hugely controversial comments continue to cast an ugly shadow.
How can I watch the Giro?
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