Pascal Ackermann quickly showed that Bora-Hansgrohe made the right decision to give him their sprinter spot for the Giro d’Italia ahead of Ireland’s Sam Bennett, winning the first mass finish in Fucecchio with impressive show of speed and confidence.
Bennett won three stages in last year’s Giro d’Italia and with Peter Sagan leading the team at the Tour de France he was hoping to return again in 2019. However, the Bora-Hansgrohe management made it clear that 25-year-old Ackermann would get the spot, with his German national champion’s jersey apparently a key factor for the German team.
"It wasn’t easy for the team to decide who should go to the Giro d’Italia but I think they went for me because I’m younger and did some good performances last year," Ackermann said, clearly ecstatic to have won the first Giro d’Italia sprint on his Grand Tour debut.
"I wanted to ride a Grand Tour last year but they made wait because we have a lot of sprinters. This year they gave me the chance but told me that I had to be focussed and in good shape. I hope I’ve paid back the faith the team showed in me.
"My team is 100 per cent behind me and I work 100 per cent for them. I think that’s a good relationship. I’m just happy I can give them something back."
Finding happiness in cycling success
Ackermann couldn’t stop smiling after his stage victory, knowing he had taken some huge scalps by beating Elia Viviani, Caleb Ewan and Fernando Gaviria.
"I can’t forget that this is my first Grand Tour and so I’ll take whatever I can get," he said. "This is already a big step up in my career. My whole spring was bad because I had five crashes in something like six race days. I was never able to show how good my legs really where. Fortunately the team trusted me and so I was happy I won Frankfurt and that gave me a lot of confidence just in time for the Giro.
"I’m happy because now I enjoy my first Grand Tour even more. I’ve won stage! I think all the pressure is off my shoulders and so we can look forward with confidence. Now I’d like to win three stages in the Giro."
Ackermann’s happiness sparked a comparison with fellow German Marcel Kittel, who last week announced he had rescinded his contract with Katusha-Alpecin to take time out of the sport.
"I think I’m happy because I’m living my dream as a cyclist. There are so many guys who never smile but I want to be an example for them in life. I have to be happy that my life is what it is," Ackermann said.
"I was cheered for Marcel when I was a young rider but I’m not as good as he is. I haven’t spoken to him recently and I saw that he’d retired from cycling. I can only wish him good luck and that he comes back next year."