Pascal Ackermann put some of the scepticism around his selection for BORA-Hansgrohe at the Giro d’Italia to bed with victory in stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia. The German national champion overcame Elia Viviani and Caleb Ewan to take his first win of the race.
The first opportunity for the sprinters at this year’s Giro d’Italia came in stage 2 from Bologna to Fucecchio which still provided enough climbing to keep matters interesting. In spite of the climb of La Serra which was 14.6km in length, there were only two categorised climbs on the menu in the form of the category 3 Montalbano and the category 4 San Baronto peaking with 47.5km and 27.5km to go respectively. The day was characterised by wet conditions that made for a bit of a torrid time for all concerned
Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone, looking to build on his lead in the KOM classification, infiltrated the early break of the day, forming part of a group that also contained Francois Bidard of AG2R La Mondiale, Trek-Segafredo’s Will Clarke, Damiano Cima of Nippo-Vini Fantini, Marco Frapporti of Androni Giocattoli, Sean Bennett of EF Education First, Mirco Maestri of Bardiani-CSF and Lukasz Owsian of CCC Team in what was a reasonably sizeable breakaway group. With a little under 160km to go the time gap to the peloton was a shade over 4 minutes as the peloton – led by delegates from Lotto Soudal, UAE Team Emirates, Jumbo Visma and Deceuninck-Quick Step – showed no immediate urgency.
Much of the stage was a tale of the break’s lead remaining at around that 4 minute margin, with the gap dropping to 3.30mins as the weather cleared up with 140km to go. After the rain had stopped and the clouds began to disperse to let the sun through, a number of riders shelled layers in the field and there seemed to be a subtle lift in urgency from the head of the peloton as the gap to the leaders dropped to 2.47 minutes with 100km to go.
Along with the sprint teams already mentioned plus Jumbo Visma with the maglia rosa of Primož Roglič, BORA-Hansgrohe also showed themselves at the front, with the consensus clearly being that the sprint teams would not be letting this one get away from them. At the intermediate sprint with 74.5km to go Marco Frapporti accelerated to take the points from Damiano Cima and Mirco Maestri, while back in the peloton it was a case of business as usual as the formation at the head of the bunch remained unchanged.
Riders weren’t immune from crashes, with the unfortunate Guillaume Boivin of the Israel Cycling Academy becoming the first rider of the 2019 Giro to take a tumble. The Canadian would remount and complete the stage, but that would be the last he would see of the peloton as he would finish the stage 26.37mins down on the peloton with just teammate Awet Gebremedhin for company.
With 60km to go the dynamic in the peloton began to change as the likes of Team Sunweb and Astana began to show a more earnest interest in the goings on at the head of the race. The gap was sitting at 2.40mins and the peloton didn’t appear to want to catch the break too soon, but there was a definite lift in tempo, that continued as Mitchelton-SCOTT marshalled towards the front with Bahrain-Merida on the run in to the foot of the first climb.
The Montalbano spelt the end of the break’s allegiance with Giulio Ciccone immediately surging to the front of the group and forcing a split that took Bidard, Owsian and Bennett with him. Back down the road a four-way contest for control of the front emerged as Mitchelton-SCOTT, Movistar, Bahrain Merida and Sunweb jostled for control at the front. While they did that Ciccone forced the issue again taking just Bidard and Owsian with him this time as the Italian clearly showed his desire for more points. Finally the summit of the climb arrived and as it did so did Ciccone sprinting to the maximum points.
As some of the stragglers from the break were swept up Bahrain Merida and Team Sunweb launched a big acceleration to try and shake things up on the slopes of the Montalbano; but to no avail. It did serve to take a chunk of the break’s lead out of the equation though as the gap went down to 1.46mins with 45km to go. Out of the peloton Sean Bennett was joined by Team Sunweb’s Jan Bakelants who attacked from the bunch briefly as the break’s lead dropped to a minute with 38km to go.
The leading riders – who were made a quartet again by Frapporti rejoining the move – would take the points on the final climb of the day. While they did so two Movistar riders hit the deck, with Jasha Sutterlin and Hector Carretero both going down from positions very close to the front of the peloton. It was surprising that they were the only ones to go down in the bunch, but again they were able to remount and complete the stage.
At the summit of the final climb Ciccone again struck for maximum points, his job done for the day. At this point the break’s lead was at 1.11mins and with Frapporti again dropped it was all about whether the three could withstand the peloton, being pulled along by UAE Team Emirates, with Sunweb still close by.
20km from the finish the break’s lead was down to 41 seconds with Frapporti again back in the move. BORA-Hansgrohe took over the pace-setting on the front of the peloton as the break’s lead dropped to 20 seconds with 15km to go and to 10 seconds with 12km left to race. Behind BORA-Hansgrohe, Lotto Soudal’s Caleb Ewan could be seen moving into position. The break were finally caught with 7km remaining and from here it was all on for the finish.
The customary jostling for position saw Groupama-FDJ, Katusha-Alpecin, Deceuninck-Quick Step and BORA-Hansgrohe all in contention for control, but it was BORA-Hansgrohe who appeared to be the most perpetual presence on the front. Dimension Data and Team Ineos put in a brief appearance on the front, but with 2km to go it was back to BORA-Hansgrohe who’d been a constant for much of the latter stages.
Lotto Soudal joined them with 1.5km to go as it looked like the stage would be a two-up battle between Ackermann and Ewan, with Viviani largely invisible on the front. Through the corner with less than 1km to go a Groupama-FDJ rider took a tumble, and as the sprinters warmed up for the finale it was Lotto Soudal who were in the driving seat with the rest of the fast finishers poised and ready behind them. Ewan hit for home a little too early and in the end that allowed Ackermann and Ewan to come through with the former taking the stage ahead of Viviani and Ewan. Fernando Gaviria of UAE Team Emirates and Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ completed the top five.