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Giro d'Italia 2017: Lukas Postlberger wins chaotic opening stage with late solo move

Martin James
5 May 2017

Pedestrian pace gives way to frantic drama in Olbia that splits peloton apart

Lukas Postlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe took a sensational victory and the first maglia rosa of the 2017 Giro d'Italia with an opportunist move in the final kilometre of the opening stage into Olbia, Sardinia.

With the peloton decimated by a chaotic run-in that left the sprinters' teams in disarray, Postlberger hit the front and found himself clear of the field whlie others sought to regroup and get their sprint trains back in order.

Orica-Scott's Caleb Ewen outsprinted Lotto Soudal's Andre Greipel and Trek-Segafredo's Giacomo Nizzolo into second place.   

The 206km stage along Sardinia’s northeast coast was the first of a three-part opening act put on by the island to kick off the 2017 Giro.

And while it didn’t look too hard on paper, there were plenty of sharp spikes in gradient to test the legs in between the three recognised 4th category climbs.

The peloton rolled out of the Alghero at 12.25pm local time three riders short of the expected count of 198.

Astana had opted not to replace Michele Scarponi after the Italian was tragically killed after being hit by a car while on a training ride last month.

The team presentation yesterday had opened with a tribute to the popular Italian, as the race and the Italian public paid their respects.

But while Scarponi will certainly be missed, the same can’t be said for Bardiani-CSF pair Stefano Pirazzi and Nicola Ruffoni, who were ejected from the race overnight after failing a doping test.

All systems go

Little surprise, then, that the action kicked off early, with the peloton clearly happy to finally be out on the road and racing.

The day’s main break of six riders came together after just 2km, comprising Mirco Maestri (Italy, Bardiani-CSF), Marcin Bialoblocki (Poland, CCC Sprandi), Cesare Benedetti (Italy, Bora-Hansgrohe). Pavel Brutt (Russia, Gazprom-Rusvelo), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea, Dimension Data) and Eugert Zhupa (Albania, Wilier-Selle Italia).

Predictably, all four wildcard teams were represented – clearly looking to maximise their TV exposure – and with no high-profile names present, the main field was happy to let them disappear down the road.

The gap shot out to 7 minutes in the first hour of racing, but then Orica-Scott, Quick Step Floors and Lotto Soudal lifted the pace in the peloton to pull the gap back to four minutes.

With still well over 120km to ride, there was no reason to panic, so the speed increase was most likely a case of teams trying to stick as close to the front as possible in what were increasingly windy conditions.

Or maybe they had decided they weren’t happy with a Bardiani-CSF rider being in the break. They needn’t have worried – Maestri lost contact with the rest of the break on the second climb of the day on 90km, and was quickly back in the fold.

That established a status quo that was maintained for much of the next two hours – the five leaders working together well at the front, the peloton gliding along effortlessly behind - so effortlessly in fact that the race was running well behind even the slowest time schedule forecast by the organisers.

For all the lack of urgency in the main field, the gap was steadily coming down, but the break was still a minute or so clear over the top of the final climb with 21km to go.

It was Benedetti who crossed the line first – as he had on the two previous climbs – to take an early lead in the mountains competition.

With a tricky and technical final run-in involving roundabouts, twists, turns, changes of gradient and even road surface over the final 2km, the peloton delayed the catch well into the final 10km.

But with the maglia rosa guaranteed for the stage winner, and teams fighting harder and harder to keep near the front to try and stay out of trouble, a bunch finish was always the only outcome.   

 

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