Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) won his first ever Grand Tour stage with victory in stage two of the Giro d'Italia 2019.
Selected for the Giro ahead of Sam Bennett, who won three stages in the race last year and has also taken six wins so far in 2019, the German wasted no time in taking the pressure off team selection choices as he beat an elite field of fast-men in the sprint finish into Fucecchio.
Italian champion Elia Viviani (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) took second place, after jumping onto Ackermann's wheel just before the line, with Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) third, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) fourth and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) fifth.
Blue jersey holder Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) capitalised on being in the day's breakaway by taking maximum points at the summit of both of the categorised climbs to consolidate his lead in the king of the mountains competition.
The overall classification remains unchanged, with the bunch finishing together, and so Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) will wear the pink jersey for a second consecutive day. Another long, flat day on stage three that is likely to also result in a sprint finish should see the Slovenian keep it too.
How it happened
After stage one's opening time trial, which was short but finished with a brutal climb, stage two provided a long flat day of racing.
Starting in Bologna, the peloton travel 205km to Fucecchio taking in two categorised climbs before a probable sprint finish.
Miserable weather accompanied the riders as they rolled out of Bologna, with the day's breakaway going early and quickly extending a maximum lead of 4-30 over the peloton. The breakaway contained: Francois Bidard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF), Lukasz Owsian (CCC), Sean Bennett (EF Education First), Damiano Cima (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Giulio Ciccone and William Clarke (Trek-Segafredo).
Frapporti won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Cima and Maestri, before Cima won the second one with Maestri runner-up.
Ciccone, who sits 1-28 back in the overall classification, wore the blue king of the mountains jersey after going up the San Luca climb fastest on stage one. After his team-mate Clarke did a lot of work setting the pace towards the first climb, Ciccone attacked, taking Bidard, Bennett and Owsian with him and splintering the breakaway group. The Italian reached the summit first to ensure that he will wear the blue jersey again on stage three.
The new leading group of four saw their gap gradually decreasing, with a number of GC teams sharing the work on the front of the peloton. With just under 30km to go, a crash in the peloton brought down Movistar's Jasha Sütterlin and Héctor Carretero, in what was a further setback to the Spanish team after their leader Mikel Landa's poor time trial performance on stage one.
There was a fierce headwind as the break tackled the second categorised climb to San Baronto, with Ciccone again reaching the top first, to establish a 15-point lead in the king of the mountains competition.
The four leaders continued to work together, even as they saw their lead drop to just 10 seconds with 10km to go. As the peloton closed in, Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data) suffered a puncture, ending his hopes of taking the stage victory.
Bora-Hansgrohe came to the front as the peloton swept up the break with 7km to go, the German team looking to set things up for their sprinter Pascal Ackermann.
The road narrowed as the race entered the final 3km, with twists and turns as the peloton descended into Fucecchio, with sprinter Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocatolli - Sidermec) also puncturing just before the 1km banner.
As the peloton sped towards the finish line, a Groupama-FDJ rider crashed, but managed to not bring down their sprinter Arnaud Démare. As lead-out men peeled away, Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) opens up the sprint on the barrier, with Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Elia Viviani (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) behind.
Pascal Ackermann made his own way, charging forward with Viviani launching across to his wheel, but the German held on to take his first ever Grand Tour win.
Stage three is likely to provide another opportunity for the sprinters, the 220km route from Vinci to Orbetello features one fourth category climb at Poggio L'Apparita with 40km to go.
Giro d’Italia 2019, stage two: Bologna to Fucecchio (205km)
1. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-44-43
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
4. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
5. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
6. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy
7. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
9. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy
10. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 4-57-42
2. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 19 seconds
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 23s
4. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 28s
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb, at same time
6. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 33s
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Ineos, at 35s
8. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 39s
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 40s
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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