Giro d'Italia highlights: stages 1-9

As the rider enjoy the first rest day of the Giro d'Italia, catch up on the first nine stages of the race with our short reports, photos and video links from each day of racing.

Stage 1 - Saturday, May 9: San Lorenzo al Mare - Sanremo (TTT), 17.6 km

The first stage of the 2015 Giro d'Italia saw Orica-GreenEdge repeat its team time trial victory of 12-months ago on the bike path which runs from San Lorenzo al Mare to San Remo with Simon Gerrans becoming the first maglia rosa of the race after an injury-interrupted start to his season.

The Australian WorldTour team scorched over the 17.6 kilometre course in a time of 19:26 as Tinkoff-Saxo fell short by 7 seconds, with Astana in third at 13 seconds.

Orica-GreenEdge was second fastest at the intermediate time check at 9.9km behind Tinkoff Saxo, but held their nerve and their line to push Fabio Aru and his Astana team off the top of the leader board with Gerrans leading them home for his first pink jersey.

"I think technically we can be very happy," Gerrans said at the line. "We set a really fast time, and left it all out there. It was planned that I would be the first over the line. It's an enormous honour to wear the maglia rosa. This team has built a reputation for team time trials, and we have some real specialists here, so this result is a credit to them."

Team Sky had a day to forget as they finished in ninth place, putting Richie Porte on the back foot with the Australian conceding 20 seconds to Alberto Contador.

Click here for video highlights of stage 1

Stage 2 - Sunday, May 10: Albenga - Genoa, 177 km

The first road stage of the race saw Team Sky bounce back from its disappointing performance in the opening team time trial thanks to sprinter Elia Viviani, who showed both great speed and judgement to win his first grand tour stage and Team Sky's first since 2013.

Viviani took the wheel of Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) coming up towards the line. He was therefore well placed as the Dutchman responded quickly when André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) opened up the sprint with 200 metres remaining. When the German began to fade, Hofland went through on his right, only to see Viviani repeat the same manoeuvre in the final 25 metres to claim the stage.

"This is incredible for me," said Viviani. "This year I've got a new team and new motivation. We’re here to win the Giro with Richie and I don't have too many guys here for the final, but today the guys did perfect work for Richie and also for me. In the last three kilometres Salvatore Puccio and then Bernie Eisel did incredible work for me." 

The maglia rosa changed shoulders for the first in the race with Michael Matthews taking the jersey of his teammate.

A late crash involving a spectator riding into the peloton saw 30 riders go down or blocked and pre-race favourite Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) lost over a minute to harm his chances of finishing on the podium.

Click here to see video highlights of stage 2

Stage 3 - Monday, May 11: Rapallo - Sestri Levante, 136 km

Orica-GreenEdge's dream start to the Giro continued on stage 3 as Michael Matthews timed his effort to perfection, claiming the win ahead of Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) in Sestri Levante while wearing the pink jersey. It was the second time that Matthews has won a stage of the Giro in the pink jersey after his win on stage 6 of last year's race.

"It's been a dream come true so far for this Giro d'Italia. We planned to get the team time trial win and this was another big goal for us. We reconned it last week and we knew what to expect so from then on we tried to do as best as we could and we pulled it off," Matthews said.

"It went right from the very start. A big breakaway went right away and we had two of our key climbers in the breakaway. That took a lot of pressure off the guys in the peloton so we could sit back and try to save as much energy as possible for the final. I had a really good rider in Simon Gerrans leading me out. When I saw this it was really special and I knew from there I just had to finish it off for the team."

Earlier in the stage, a nasty crash involving Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) saw TV camera's focus on the Italian's limp looking body and blood stained head. Fortunately he was not seriously injured.The Italian was forced to withdraw from the race with head injuries, with Matthews sportingly dedicating his win to Pozzovivo.

Click here to see video highlights of stage 3

Stage 4 - Tuesday, May 12: Chiavari - La Spezia, 150 km

Davide Formolo came of age on stage 4 with a dramatic first professional win in La Spezia. The young 22-year-old Italian, making his Grand Tour debut for Cannondale-Garmin, attacked from the day's early break just before the foot of the final climb before a breakneck descent into the finish to claim his team's biggest win of the season so far.

Formolo's success was just one of many intriguing sub plots on a day that saw Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) lose his maglia rosa to room mate Simon Clarke, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Richie Porte (Team Sky) go head-to-head and emerge as the clear podium favourites.

"It feels amazing to win," said Formolo after the stage. "I’m 22-years-old, and I’ve dreamed of this for 22 years."

"It was a really hard day because it always up and down and never flat," added Formolo. "The break always rode very hard except on the descents. It was a very difficult day, but I am so happy with the results for myself and the team."

Click here to see video highlights of stage 4

Stage 5 - Wednesday, May 13: La Spezia - Abetone, 152 km

The first mountain finish of the Giro d'Italia to Abetone in the Apennines sparked a battle royal for the pink jersey with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Richie Porte (Team Sky) going on the attack in the final five kilometres of the climb to the ski resort in the central Appenines.

The stage was won by Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) after proving himself to be the strongest rider in the long break of the day, taking the first win of his professional career just a few days after his 23rd birthday. Polanc, the third Grand Tour stage winner debutant of the first week, distanced Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) who just managed to hang on for second place at 1:31 on the same time as Aru, Porte and Contador.

"The first victory is always special and I’m really happy that it came at the Giro d’Italia. It’s a great present for my birthday,” Polanc said. "I was 23 on the day I travelled to the Giro, last Wednesday. I just want to thank the team who gave me this chance and all my family and friends who have helped me. They help me in the bad times and in the good times like this."

Although Aru picked up a four-second time bonus for third, Contador pulled on the leader's pink jersey after Simon Clarke finished four minutes back, ending Orica-GreenEdge’s control of the overall race lead.

"I didn’t think I'd get the pink jersey so early, the goal is to get it in Milan at the finish. This is just a taste of what is to come," Contador said. "Of course I'm really happy to have it because everybody knows how much I like the Giro d’Italia and how important this jersey is to me. We might not try too hard to keep it but it will be up to the others to take it away from me. The good thing of today is that we’ve distanced Uran and that my legs felt good."

With Contador, Aru and Porte demonstrating their clear superiority over the peloton were dubbed the trio the "Three Tenors" by Italian sport daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

Click here to see video highlights of stage 5

Stage 6 - Thursday, May 14: Montecatini Terme - Castiglione Della Pescaia, 183 km

André Greipel's third career Giro stage win was overshadowed by the news that Alberto Contador had suffered a dislocated shoulder in a late crash caused by a spectator leaning over the barrier with a protruding camera lens. Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) felt the full brunt of the lens which broke his left humerus in his arm and then sent 'shockwaves' through the peloton, resulting in Contador falling heavily on his left-side and dislocating his shoulder.

Greipel delivering after a full Lotto-Soudal team lead out but his win was overshadowed by the crash of the maglia rosa.

"This is what we’re here for: to win a stage," Greipel said. "I’ve got to thank the team, they gave me an awesome lead out. Greg Henderson did a long, long pull to lead me out. We can be happy with this win today."

Contador explained that he thought he had initially broken his collarbone before popping his left-shoulder back in, adding that "at the foot of the podium it [the shoulder] came out again".

Such was the pain of the injury, Contador was unable to pull on the maglia rosa on the podium before he rushed away for x-rays skipping all media duties until the injury was confirmed.

Click here to see video highlights of stage 6

Stage 7 - Friday, May 15: Grosseto - Fiuggi, 264 km

Alberto Contador's shoulder was given the ultimate test as he lined up for the longest stage of the 2015 edition of the race. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) emerged from a hectic sprint on the rising finish in Fiuggi for his first race since serving a nine-month ban for asthma drug Salbutamol. He tested positive during the 2014 Giro d'Italia and only made a comeback in April at the Tour of the Basque Country.

Ulissi celebrated his victory, even stopping to drop to his knees in tears. He emotionally hugged his teammates, who celebrated with him.

"This is a liberation for me," Ulissi said. "I've been through some difficult months but I’m really happy now and how I reacted to everything that happened. I’ve got to thank my family, my wife and daughter, my parents, friends and my great team that supported me through everything."

The GC remained as it was with Contador's two second lead of Aru intact after the stage while Porte kept his third place, 20 seconds in arrears. There was only a quick media rendezvous for Contador after the stage as he was keen to start the recovery process on his shoulder as fast as possible.

"Bueno, I’m happy that I got through the day. I knew I was not feeling great and I suffered, even if things seem to be getting better. We raced for more than seven and a half hours and after four hours I was struggling with my hand. The only thing I want to do now is put some ice on my shoulder and recover from the long stage," he said on Italian television, opting not to attend the post-race press conference.

 Click here to see video highlights of stage 7

Stage 8 - Saturday, May 16: Fiuggi - Campitello Matese, 186 km

Stage 8 of the Giro belonged to Spain, as Movistar's Beñat Intxausti took a fine solo win at the summit of Campitello Matese, while compatriot Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) answered the doubts about the state of his damaged shoulder by managing to retain his grip on the maglia rosa. He even extending his lead by two seconds courtesy of the first intermediate sprint of the day. 

Intxausti proved himself, as Polanc had, to be the strongest and canniest rider in the long breakaway showing "real sangfroid" to claim the second Giro stage of his career.

"I was really cold-blooded today in my tactics," he said of dispatching Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and IAM Cycling's Sébastien Reichenbach in the final four kilometres of the day to ride solo across the line. "I knew that the group in front would be incredibly strong, especially Kruiswijk, but we kept pulling and towards the finish we managed to get on terms with him, and then I made my move."

Mikel Landa banged his handlebars in frustration at finishing second, 20 seconds back, while Fabio Aru and Team Sky's Richie Porte tried their best to distance Contador but the 'Three Tenors' crossed the line together with Rigoberto Uran to raise the suggestion that the pink jersey is still a battle for the 'Fab Four'. The Colombian found his voice and legs after showing signs of recovery from the bronchitis he was suffering from at the start of the Giro.

"I'm really happy with the way it's gone today, just as I was yesterday,” said Contador. "They've been very tough days and today's stage was incredibly hard until the break went. At the end, Astana made it difficult for us, and then so did Aru and Richie. It was obvious that Aru was going to attack, he's come here to win the race just as Richie has. They tried to attack me, but despite the fall I've been able to respond. It was good to save the day and now I've got to think about resting."

Click here to see video highlights of stage 8


Stage 9 - Sunday, May 17: Benevento - San Giorgio Del Sannio, 215 km

The last stage before the first rest day of the Giro was always going to be a hard and fast affair with Astana doing their best to unsettle Alberto Contador and swap Fabio Aru's white jersey for the pink. At the end of the hilly stage the strategy did not work, with Aru unable to drop Contador but the team could take comfort in Paolo Tiralongo's solo victory ahead of Stephen Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) second and Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) third.

"Today I was part of a great team. I found the right breakaway. My job was to wait for my teammates on the final climb, but things didn’t turn out that way," Tiralongo said. "It is an unexpected win."

Contador's overall lead was trimmed by one second with Aru making a late jump at the finish line but the big loser on the day was Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), who missed the cut and fell even further back.

"I would have preferred to have ridden more conservatively from the final climb to the finish, but Aru asked me to work with him because Urán was behind us, and it was important to put time into him," Contador said. "We worked together, even if he sprinted to gain back a second, but I’m very happy with where I am after nine stages. I have the Maglia Rosa, and I have a rest day for my shoulder and legs to recover."

With the first nine stages completed, Alberto Contador leads the Giro's general classification on a time of 38:31:35, with Fabio Aru three seconds in arrears and Richie Porte 22 seconds behind the Tinkoff-Saxo rider. Mikel Landa and Dario Cataldo round out the top five for Astana.

Click here to see video highlights of stage 9

Click here to find all the Cyclingnews Giro d'Italia videos

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