Giro d'Italia: Tim Merlier wins sprint on stage 2

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.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:21:09
2Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos
3Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
4Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
5Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
8Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
9Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation
10Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
11Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates
12Max Kanter (Ger) Team DSM
13Manuel Belletti (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
14Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
15Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
16Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
17Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
18David Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
19Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team
20Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
21Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
22Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
23Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates
24Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates
25Nico Denz (Ger) Team DSM
26Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
27Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
28Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
29Larry Warbasse (USA) AG2R Citroën Team
30Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
31Alexander Krieger (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix
32Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
33Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Cofidis
34Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
35Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
36Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
37Jai Hindley (Aus) Team DSM
38Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (Eri) Trek-Segafredo
39Patrick Bevin (NZl) Israel Start-up Nation
40Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
41Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos
42Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
43Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM
44Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
45Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos Grenadiers
46Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos
47Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech
48Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
49Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
50João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep
51Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
52Natnael Berhane (Eri) Cofidis
53Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
54Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo
55Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
56Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious
57Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
58Edward Ravasi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
59Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-Nippo
60Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
61Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal
62Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team
63Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo
64Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation
65Nicola Venchiarutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
66Alex Dowsett (GBr) Israel Start-up Nation
67Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team
68Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo
69Joe Dombrowski (USA) UAE Team Emirates
70Matteo Sobrero (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
71Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
72Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain Victorious
73Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
74Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal
75Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
76Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
77Michael Hepburn (Aus) Team BikeExchange
78Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious
79Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
80Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
81Kobe Goossens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
82Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka Assos
83Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
84Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange
85Wesley Kreder (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
86Cameron Meyer (Aus) Team BikeExchange
87Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Team BikeExchange
88Mauro Schmid (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos
89Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
90Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
91Attilio Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
92Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team
93Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto Soudal
94Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-Nippo
95Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team DSM
96Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF Education-Nippo
97Julius van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-Nippo
98Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
99Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
100Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma
101Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma
102Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
103George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma
104Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
105Einer Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team
106Guy Niv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
107Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ
108Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
109Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation
110Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
111Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
112Vadim Pronskiy (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
113Matthias Brändle (Aut) Israel Start-up Nation
114Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team
115Giovanni Aleotti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
116Simon Pellaud (Swi) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
117Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
118Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
119Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
120Tanel Kangert (Est) Team BikeExchange
121Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis
122Simon Guglielmi (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
123Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
124Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
125Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious
126François Bidard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
127Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
128Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
129Jan Hirt (Cze) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
130Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos
131Andrii Ponomar (Ukr) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
132Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
133Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos
134Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
135Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ
136Rein Taaramäe (Est) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
137Lars van den Berg (Ned) Groupama-FDJ
138Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
139Umberto Marengo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
140Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
141Natnael Tesfazion (Eri) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
142Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
143Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
144Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal
145Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
146Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange
147James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep
148Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
149Harold Tejada Canacue (Col) Astana-Premier Tech
150Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange
151Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
152Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo
153Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
154Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
155Samuele Rivi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
156Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis
157Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis
158Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
159Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
160Callum Scotson (Aus) Team BikeExchange
161Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team
162Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team
163Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
164Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM
165Michael Storer (Aus) Team DSM
166Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
167Márton Dina (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
168Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
169Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers
170Samuele Zoccarato (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
171Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
172Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
173Mark Christian (GBr) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
174Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal
175Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
176Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Qhubeka Assos
177Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
178Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:35
179Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
180Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
181Matteo Badilatti (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
182Albert Torres Barcelo (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:45
183Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:02:33
DNSKrists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation
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Sprint 1 - Tricerro km. 139.6
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 12
2Umberto Marengo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 8
3Fernando Gaviria Rendon (Col) UAE Team Emirates 6
4Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis 5
5Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 4
6Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 3
7Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates 2
8Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 1
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Sprint 2 - Novara km. 179
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 50
2Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos 35
3Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis 25
4Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 18
5Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 14
6Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 12
7Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 10
8Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team 8
9Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Start-up Nation 7
10Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal 6
11Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates 5
12Max Kanter (Ger) Team DSM 4
13Manuel Belletti (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 3
14Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal 2
15Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 1
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Bonus Sprint 1 - Vercelli km. 154.7
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:03
2Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:02
3Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:01
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Mountain 1 - Montechiaro D'Asti km. 95.2
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 3
2Filippo Tagliani (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 2
3Umberto Marengo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 1
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