(The Guardian) – Pascal Ackermann, who was parachuted into the Giro d’Italia in the place of his teammate Sam Bennett, won the nervous second stage after a hectic sprint into Fucecchio, while Primoz Roglic of Slovenia maintained his overall lead.
In what was his first road stage in his debut Grand Tour, Ackermann shocked more established Italian sprinters, Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria, to take a convincing win.
“I saw at 250 metres to go that nobody had started to sprint, so I just decided to go full gas and hoped it was enough. Now all the team is more motivated and that’s good for the next three weeks,” the 25-year-old German said.
Ackermann, who was selected ahead of Bennett, despite the Irishman’s trio of stage wins in last year’s Giro, narrowly avoided a crash in the final kilometres. The Frenchman Olivier Le Gac hit the road as riders jostled for position.
There was no change to the overall standings established after Saturday’s opening time trial in Bologna, with Britain’s Simon Yates, the winner of last year’s Vuelta a España, remaining second overall.
Yates’s bullish statements before the Giro began, in which he suggested his rivals should be “scared” of his form to the extent that they would be“shitting themselves”, will not easily be forgotten as this Giro unfolds.
Such polemica however is in the tradition of the Italian race, as the former champion Vincenzo Nibali, a past master of discreet sledging, is well aware. The Italian’s riposte, coming from a rider who was once disqualified from the Vuelta for clinging on to a team car for an absurd length of time, that Yates, should “respect” the race, failed to cut the mustard.
Yates seems to be taking it all in his stride. “Maybe I should be the one shitting myself,” he added dryly after Roglic had soundly thumped the main contenders in the first of the race’s three time trials.
Sunday’s stage exiting Emilia-Romagna before crossing the Apennines and entering the rolling Tuscan hills was wet, grim and greasy as several riders found to their cost. “There was a little bit of nerves on the climbs towards the finish,” Yates said. “I think it was just the general nerves from the first day of a Grand Tour and people were just trying to stay safe.”
Stage three, from Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo, to Orbetello, offers more of the same, with another sprint finish expected. But, as is often the case with the opening sprints in most Grand Tours, a stage that begins with a celebration of beauty, could easily turn ugly.