Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) won the first sprint of the 2021 Giro d’Italia in Novara, coming from behind to beat Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) was caught too far back in the final kilometre and finished tenth.
Merlier held up his fingers to form a W to remember fellow Belgian Wouter Weylandt, who tragically died after a crash at the Giro d’Italia exactly ten years ago.
The stage was a slow affair with a three-rider break eventually swept up with 25km to go.
No one team was able to control the sprint. Cofidis lead it out for Viviani in the final 500 metres and then Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) hit the front to lead out Fernando Gaviria only for the Colombian to try to come through along the barriers as his teammate moved right into him as he pulled off the front. Gaviria slid along the barriers with his shoulder but did not crash.
Merlier surged to the front as the road curved right and so avoided the fight for wheels and sprinted to victory.
“I'm really happy, really proud of taking a Grand Tour win,” he said.
“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.”
Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) finished safely in the peloton and so kept the race leader’s pink jersey. He won the intermediate sprint with 26km to go and so extended his overall lead to 13 seconds on compatriot Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma).
“I sprinted (at the intermediate sprint) just for taking the seconds, not for the other jerseys but to take away time from the other leaders, and so to help Egan and Pavel in the GC in the next few days. If we take the jersey or not for three seconds, it will be worth it,” he explained post-race.
Ganna was not so confident about keeping the maglia rosa after Monday’s rolling stage in the Piemonte vineyards.
"It was super amazing today, there were a lot of people cheering for me, it was really special,” he said of his day in pink.
“We know tomorrow is hard and a perfect stage for [Peter] Sagan because there's a lot of up and down, really narrow roads. But we can try to have the jersey for another day.”
How it unfolded
The Giro d’Italia caravan headed south to the outskirts of Turin for the start of stage 2 in Stupinigi.
The sign-on podium was on the grounds of the stunning 18th-century hunting palace built by the House of Savoy that once ruled across the Alps from France and into Piemonte and more of what later became Italy.
Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) had lots of pink accessories and pink touches on his race bike to match his race leader’s maglia rosa. His stage 1 time trial victory also gave him the cyclamen points jersey and the white young riders jersey but they were worn by Edoardo Affini and Tobias Foss after they finished second and third in the time trial.
They all stood at the front of the peloton at the start line as a minute of silence was held to remember Wouter Weylandt. The Belgian rider died 10 years ago today at the Giro d'Italia after crashing on the Passo del Bocco on stage 3. His race number, 108, was later retired by the Giro in tribute to him.
A total of 183 riders started after Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation) broke his collarbone in a crash while riding back to his team hotel after Saturday’s time trial.
Not surprisingly, the break formed as soon as technical director Stefano Allocchio waved the flag after the seven-kilometre neutralised sector.
Filippo Tagliani (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) jumped first and local rider Umberto Marengo (Bardiani-CSF-Faizané) and Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) joined him for a big day out front.
Marengo hails from Giaveno, east of Turin, so getting in the break in his home region was special. During last year's COVID-19 lockdown, he spent hours every day making food deliveries in Collegno.
The peloton let them go and they opened a one-minute lead after just four kilometres of racing. After 40km it was up to 4:20 but the sprint teams began to keep them in check, with Lotto Soudal, Alpecin-Fenix and Jumbo-Visma doing the work and bringing the gap to a more controlled 2:00.
After 95km the only categorised climb of the day in Montechiaro d'Asti would decide who in the break would take the blue mountains jersey. In a near track-sprint scenario, Albanese had the best uphill sprint to take the prize and a trip to the podium for his Eolo team.
Sadly his time up front ended ten kilometres later after a mechanical and slow bike change. He drifted back to the peloton as other riders stopped for natural breaks.
The average speed was more like a club run, with the break and peloton playing games and slowing the pace as they rolled across the rice plains towards Novara. The average speed after four hours of racing was 39.8km/h.
The peloton only awoke from its afternoon nap for the first intermediate sprint but some of the riders seemed to still be asleep. Tagliani beat Marengo in the break, as Fernando Gaviria, Elia Viviani, Peter Sagan and Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty) mistakenly sprinted for the 40km to go banner instead of the intermediate sprint banner.
Gaviria quickly realised their mistake and accelerated to take 6 points for third place at the correct banner. Viviani took 5 points, Pasqualon 4 points and Sagan 3 points. The fact that Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier didn’t sprint was a first sign that they have no plans to ride all the way to Milan and so fight for the points jersey.
The second intermediate sprint came in Vercelli with 25km to go and awarded time bonuses of 3-2-1 seconds. The peloton had upped the speed at this point and so swept up Tagliani and Marengo just before the sprint.
A chance to take precious seconds inspired Deceuninck-QuickStep but also Ganna.
The Belgian team lead it out but Ganna surged up the left to win it and take three seconds. Remco Evenepoel took two seconds, with his teammate Iljo Keisse taking third and a one-second time bonus.
Evenepoel two seconds put him ahead of teammate Joao Almeida in the overall classification due to better hundreds of a second in the time trial. Officially they are fourth and fifth overall, both 20 seconds behind Ganna.
As the stage entered the final 20km the sprint and GC teams began to form on the front of the peloton to protect their leaders. The speed and tension rose as a natural consequence. With 10km to go, litter and bidons flew into the air as the peloton entered the final official litter zone, one bidon spraying a spectator with liquid.
Movistar, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Ineos all moved up to the front to avoid any problems with eight kilometres to go and then Bora-Hansgrohe moved up in mass with four kilometres to go.
However, no one team could lead out the sprint. Daniel Oss tried to line out the sprinters in the final kilometre but the sprint came down to a mano-a-mano battle between the big-name sprinters.
Merlier got it right and was fastest as the finish came into view. A Belgian victory on the anniversary of Wouter Weylandt’s death and Merlier’s W victory gesture seemed the perfect way to remember him.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||4:21:09|
|2||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|3||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis|
|4||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|5||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|6||Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|7||Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|8||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|9||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation|
|10||Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal|
|11||Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|12||Max Kanter (Ger) Team DSM|
|13||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|14||Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|15||Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|16||Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers|
|17||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|18||David Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|19||Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team|
|20||Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|21||Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis|
|22||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|23||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates|
|24||Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|25||Nico Denz (Ger) Team DSM|
|26||Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|27||Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|28||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|29||Larry Warbasse (USA) AG2R Citroën Team|
|30||Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|31||Alexander Krieger (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix|
|32||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|33||Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Cofidis|
|34||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|35||Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM|
|36||Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|37||Jai Hindley (Aus) Team DSM|
|38||Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (Eri) Trek-Segafredo|
|39||Patrick Bevin (NZl) Israel Start-up Nation|
|40||Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|41||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|42||Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|43||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM|
|44||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|45||Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos Grenadiers|
|46||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|47||Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech|
|48||Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|49||Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|50||João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|51||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|52||Natnael Berhane (Eri) Cofidis|
|53||Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech|
|54||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo|
|55||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|56||Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious|
|57||Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers|
|58||Edward Ravasi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|59||Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo|
|60||Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|61||Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal|
|62||Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team|
|63||Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo|
|64||Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation|
|65||Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|66||Alex Dowsett (GBr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|67||Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team|
|68||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo|
|69||Joe Dombrowski (USA) UAE Team Emirates|
|70||Matteo Sobrero (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech|
|71||Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|72||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain Victorious|
|73||Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|74||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|75||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|76||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|77||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|78||Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious|
|79||Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|80||Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|81||Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|82||Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|83||Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|84||Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange|
|85||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|86||Cameron Meyer (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|87||Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|88||Mauro Schmid (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|89||Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|90||Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|91||Attilio Viviani (Ita) Cofidis|
|92||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team|
|93||Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|94||Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-Nippo|
|95||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team DSM|
|96||Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF Education-Nippo|
|97||Julius van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-Nippo|
|98||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|99||Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|100||Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma|
|101||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma|
|102||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|103||George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma|
|104||Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|105||Einer Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team|
|106||Guy Niv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation|
|107||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ|
|108||Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|109||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation|
|110||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo|
|111||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|112||Vadim Pronskiy (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|113||Matthias Brändle (Aut) Israel Start-up Nation|
|114||Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|115||Giovanni Aleotti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|116||Simon Pellaud (Swi) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|117||Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|118||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|119||Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|120||Tanel Kangert (Est) Team BikeExchange|
|121||Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis|
|122||Simon Guglielmi (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|123||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|124||Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|125||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious|
|126||François Bidard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|127||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious|
|128||Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|129||Jan Hirt (Cze) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|130||Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|131||Andrii Ponomar (Ukr) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|132||Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|133||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|134||Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|135||Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ|
|136||Rein Taaramäe (Est) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|137||Lars van den Berg (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|138||Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|139||Umberto Marengo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|140||Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|141||Natnael Tesfazion (Eri) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|142||Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|143||Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|144||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal|
|145||Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec|
|146||Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange|
|147||James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|148||Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech|
|149||Harold Tejada Canacue (Col) Astana-Premier Tech|
|150||Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange|
|151||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|152||Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo|
|153||Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|154||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|155||Samuele Rivi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|156||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis|
|157||Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis|
|158||Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|159||Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|160||Callum Scotson (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|161||Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team|
|162||Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team|
|163||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|164||Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM|
|165||Michael Storer (Aus) Team DSM|
|166||Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|167||Márton Dina (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|168||Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix|
|169||Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers|
|170||Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|171||Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo-Visma|
|172||Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|173||Mark Christian (GBr) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|174||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|175||Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|176||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|177||Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|178||Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:35|
|179||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|180||Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|181||Matteo Badilatti (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|182||Albert Torres Barcelo (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:45|
|183||Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:02:33|
|DNS||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||12|
|2||Umberto Marengo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'||8|
|3||Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates||6|
|4||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis||5|
|5||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||4|
|6||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe||3|
|7||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates||2|
|8||Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||1|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||50|
|2||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos||35|
|3||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis||25|
|4||Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||18|
|5||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe||14|
|6||Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||12|
|7||Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'||10|
|8||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team||8|
|9||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation||7|
|10||Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal||6|
|11||Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates||5|
|12||Max Kanter (Ger) Team DSM||4|
|13||Manuel Belletti (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team||3|
|14||Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal||2|
|15||Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux||1|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:03|
|2||Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:02|
|3||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:01|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team||3|
|2||Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec||2|
|3||Umberto Marengo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'||1|