Tim Merlier sprinted to his first career Grand Tour victory on stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia, his debut at the race. The Alpecin-Fenix sprinter beat out Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) in Novara to triumph on the first road stage of the race.
After a messy finale which didn't see any one team take control of the peloton, Merlier went long with 200 metres to go, surprising the sprint trains of Cofidis and UAE Team Emirates before holding off both the Italian pair behind him and Jumbo-Visma sprinter Dylan Groenewegen on the final run to the line.
Upon crossing the line to claim his fourth victory of 2021, Merlier held up his hands to form a W shape in tribute to Wouter Weylandt, who died in a crash at the Giro d'Italia 10 years ago to the day.
"I'm really happy, really proud of taking a Grand Tour win," Merlier said after the stage.
"I knew there was a roundabout that was really important in the end. When I saw it, I knew I was in a good position. When I came out I was thinking we need to go faster, faster, faster. I went from far out - 250m - but in the end, it was enough. This is a big victory.
"I am just happy I could do it for him," said Merlier of Weylandt.
Elsewhere, Fernando Gaviria's (UAE Team Emirates) Giro sprint campaign got off to a bad start after he was forced to slide along the barriers to stay upright after teammate Juan Sebastián Molano blocked him out.
Earlier in the day, Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) extended his lead at the top of the general classification to 13 seconds after leading the way across the second intermediate sprint, while Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) moved up three spots to fourth overall thanks to a two-second bonus at the same sprint point.
Watch the video highlights from stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia above.
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