Italian sprinter thanks team after claiming his first ever Grand Tour win

Team Sky’s Giro d’Italia appears back on track after yesterday’s time trial flop thanks to Elia Viviani. The team’s Italian sprinted to win the second stage in Genoa ahead of Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

Sky and its overall leader Richie Porte lost 20 seconds yesterday in the 17.6-kilometre team time trial to rival team Tinkoff-Saxo with Spaniard Alberto Contador in second place.

“It didn’t go how we wanted to yesterday,” Viviani said.

“We were all down last night because we expected something more out of the team time trial, but I don’t think it was a bad ride. In the end, we were there with many other teams. It’s OK as it is.”

Rival teams Astana and Etixx placed third and fourth in the opening stage for leaders Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Urán, respectively. Sky placed ninth.

Contador leads the favourites by six seconds on Aru, 12 seconds on Urán and 20 seconds on Porte. The gaps stayed the same after stage two, but Viviani’s sprint lifted the team’s spirits at least.

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Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), the new race leader, began early on the slight uphill run to Genoa’s centre. Greipel charged up the left side followed by Hofland, and Viviani jumped on their mini-express train as they passed.

Viviani not only gave Sky its first success in this year’s Giro, but he gave himself his first Grand Tour win. He has at times been seen as a B-level sprinter with wins in the Tour of Beijing, Critérium du Dauphiné, and in several -.HC and -.1 ranked races around the world, but today he took a step onto the Grand Tour stage.

“I had freedom to do my work,” Viviani said. “We helped Richie first, then Salvatore Puccio and Vasil Kiryienka led me out.”

Sky signed the 26-year-old Italian from Verona over the winter from Italian team Cannondale/Liquigas.

“Sky helped me select my goals well and work for them well with precision,” he added. “Also, they are helping me with my sprints and my endurance uphill.”

Michael Matthews and Simon Gerrans on stage two of the 2015 Giro d'Italia (Watson)

Michael Matthews leads Simon Gerrans on stage two of the 2015 Giro d’Italia (Watson)

Matthews started the day in the white jersey of young rider and exchanged it for the pink leader’s jersey. The ride was almost a repeat of last year in Belfast. Orica won the opening time trial to put Svein Tuft in the leader’s jersey and Matthews, thanks to his placing, took over the leader’s pink jersey. In Genoa, the jersey went from team-mate Simon Gerrans to Matthews after his seventh place.

“Two years in a row now in the pink jersey — it’s a special day,” Matthews said.

“I’d like to have won in the sprint, but I was at the front too early and it was a little unlucky. It’s a perfect start for the team, we won the time trial yesterday, we got that goal, then today, in the pink jersey.”

Matthews explained that he has a better chance to win in tomorrow’s stage when the race finishes down the Ligurian coast in Sestri Levante.