Pascal Ackermann holds off Elia Viviani to seal stage two of Giro d’Italia 2019

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Bora-Hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann held off Elia Viviani to collect his first Giro d’Italia stage win in Fucecchio on Sunday.

The 205km second stage from Bologna came down to a sprint finish in which the German national champion, making his Giro debut this year, had the power to hold off Italy’s national champion.

Australian Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal came in third behind the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider, with UAE Team Emirates’ Fernando Gaviria fourth.

The bunch finish meant there was no change at the top of the general classification, in which Team Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic holds the pink jersey with a 19-second advantage over Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates.

Two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida is a further four seconds behind the Lancastrian in third place, with Tao Geoghegan Hart of Team Ineos in eighth place, 35 seconds off pink.

After Saturday’s time trial, Sunday’s stage set off from Bologna in damp conditions, with an eight-man breakaway quickly setting off up the road and building a lead of four-and-a-half minutes.

Bora-Hansgrohe did a huge amount of the work to chase them down on the approach to Fucecchio, with the catch made inside the last 10 kilometres.

The team looked to have blown their advantage inside the final 1,000 metres as others swamped them on the front, but Ackermann kept his cool and launched his attack right on cue.

“I’m so happy, this is my first chance to win a stage and we did it great,” said Ackermann, selected by his team ahead of Irishman Sam Bennett, who won three stages of last year’s Giro.

“I think that all the team is more motivated and it’s good for the next three weeks.

“We saw with 250 metres to go that none of the sprinters had started the sprint. I decided to take my speed and go full gas and luckily it was enough.”

The three-week race continues on Monday with a 220km stage from Vinci to Orbetello which again offers promise for the sprinters.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Fernando Gaviria on his special relationship with the Giro d'Italia and battling Elia Viviani

Matt Jones 8/05/2019
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He has only appeared at one previous edition in his fledgling career, but Fernando Gaviria will always enjoy a special connection with the Giro d’Italia.

The 24-year-old Colombian came of age at the 2017 La Corsa Rosa. On his Grand Tour debut the Etixx-Quick-Step (now Deceuninck-Quick-Step) protégé finished 129th overall but shot to prominence with four stage wins – more than any other rider.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, who was crowned GC (General Classification) champion, was the only other cyclist to win more than one, and he only claimed two victories.

Gaviria, then 22, triumphed on Stage 3 from Tortoli to Cagliari in a sprint finish, taking the lead of the GC, briefly, in the process. He relinquished the coveted Maglia Rosa the next day to Quick-Step team-mate Bob Jungels but went on to taste triumph three more times.

Stage 5 belonged to the emerging young South American too while he rode to back-to-back successes on Stages 12 and 13 – leaving the likes of German sprint king Andre Greipel in his wake and writing himself into the history books as the first Colombian to win four stages at a single Giro. It landed him the re-introduced Maglia Ciclamino jersey, awarded to the points classification champion.

Initial success morphed into the real possibility that Gaviria can achieve status as a sprinting great by the time his career is finished, when he backed up his Giro performances with success at the 2018 Tour de France.

The La Ceja native conquered the opening stage from Noirmoutier-en-l’lle to Fontenay-le-Comte to don the famous yellow jersey, following it with victory on Stage 4.

This year, and now with UAE Team Emirates, Gaviria intends to tackle both races. But the sprint sensation admits the Giro – which catapulted him onto cycling’s top table – will always hold a certain extra significance.

“I feel a special relationship with the Giro,” he told Sport360 at the team’s base on Wednesday, with four days to go until the 2019 edition – and 102nd overall.

“My career took its international dimension in the Giro d’Italia 2017 thanks to the points classification jersey and the four stage victories. They lifted me into the elite sprinters’ group.”

Despite a strong beginning to life at the Grand Tour level, Gaviria has some way to go to oust Mario Cipollini for the most Giro stage wins. The Lion King roared to 42 individual wins over 15 years, as well as three points titles.

But he admits narrowing the gap to the greats – current rider Mark Cavendish lays claim to 15 Giro stage wins – is something the Colombian ace aspires to.

“You mentioned very strong sprinters (like Greipel and Marcel Kittel), they made history in the sprints of the Grand Tours, of course I’d like to reach their amount of victories in these races,” he added.

“This would mean that I managed to be very competitive for many years and in every Grand Tour I participate in.”

Even though he’ll return to Le Tour later in the year, the UAE’s captain for the Giro is focused only on the next gruelling three weeks ahead – Grand Tours consist of 21 race days, with two rest days following at the end of the first and second weeks.

“I will be at the Tour de France and I will do my best to compete in the sprints. But, before, there’s the Giro d’Italia and now I’m focused on it,” said the steely-eyed Gaviria, his fiery South American passion easily detectable.

“A season of a top rider is made of some big races, not only of one big appointment.

“This year, the main race for me would have been the Tour de France, the Giro was an option.

“But with Fabio Aru out of the competition (the Italian icon is out injured until the summer) the team shifted attention from the General Classification to stages and I was happy to confirm my participation in the Giro with the goal of going for stages.

“So, I consider the Giro an important race, as the Tour de France will also be.”

Though he claimed the most stage wins on debut two years ago, Grand Tours are notoriously difficult – pretty much impossible – for sprinters to win. They rarely compete or even stay the course when the races enter the treacherous mountainous stages – Gaviria himself failed to finish the Tour last year.

He and other major sprinters like Greipel and Dylan Groenewegen were unable to finish Stage 11, the third major hilly Alps stage within the time limit, and were eliminated.

Gaviria is looking forward to going head to head with former Quick-Step team-mate Elia Viviani (r).

Gaviria is looking forward to going head to head with former Quick-Step team-mate Elia Viviani (r).

Instead, Gaviria will look to make his impact early, on the opening Individual Time Trial (ITT) or following four flat stages before the first climb occurs on Stage 6 from Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo.

And Gaviria knows one-time Quick-Step team-mate Elia Viviani will be the man to beat in the sprints come Saturday.

“The main one will be Elia Viviani. I know him very well, having raced in the same team in the past and having raced on track against him,” Gaviria said of the Italian road race champion and winner of last year’s points jersey.

“He’ll be for sure very, very competitive. I add also in the list Pascal Ackermann, Caleb Ewan, Arnaud Demare, Giacomo Nizzolo: they all seem to be in  good condition.

“My goal will be to contend the victories in those stages which finish in sprints. Being a sprinter, I’ll try to make the most of the opportunities that the stages will offer to the fast riders.

“The sprinters will have a good number of opportunities during the first part of the Giro. It’s important to consider that, as often happens in the Giro, there will be no straightforward stages. The sprinters and their teams will always have to fight for the sprint finish.

“It will be very difficult to fight for the points classification, because the second part of the Giro will be almost exclusively for the climbers. I’ll try to make the most of the opportunities to compete in sprints for the top result.”

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UAE Team Emirates hunting Giro d’Italia stage victories with Fernando Gaviria

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Fernando Gaviria won four stages on his debut at the Giro two years ago.

UAE Team Emirates will be hunting stage victories at the Giro d’Italia as Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria tops the line-up of riders looking for success at the opening Grand Tour of the season.

Despite only one previous appearance at Italy’s most famous stage race, Gaviria already has four stage wins under his belt – all picked up in his debut Giro two years ago. It was a race to remember for the youngster, who went on to pick up the Maglia Ciclamino (Points jersey) while at Etixx-Quick-Step (now Deceuninck-Quick-Step).

He will be hopeful of a repeat performance and will count on the support of team-mates Diego Ulissi, Jan Polanc, Juan Sebastian Molano, Simone Consonni, Tom Bohli, Marco Marcato and Valerio Conti.

Whilst Molano and Bohli make their race debuts, there’s plenty of experience in the ranks too. Ulissi has six stage wins at the Giro, while Polanc has two, making this a well-rounded group looking to compete for stage honours.

Commenting ahead of the race, which starts on Saturday in Bologna, UAE Team Emirates general manager Matxin Joxean Fernandez said: “Not being able to count on one man for the general classification, we had to come up with a group to very competitive for the sprints and the hunt for stages wins.

“The goal is to be aggressive, attacking, to try to be protagonists both with our group of fast cyclists supporting Gaviria and with cyclists who have always come up with excellent performances in the Giro: Ulissi, Polanc and Conti.

“We know the stages well, we love the spirit that comes with the Giro, and we are ready to do our best.”

Chris Froome is the defending Giro champion.

Chris Froome is the defending Giro champion.

The Giro – which along with the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana make up cycling’s Triple Crown – will see the peloton tackle 21 stages across three weeks of intense cycling, taking in a range of parcours including sprint, hilly and mountain stages.

The opening stage is an 8km individual time trial (ITT) and should set us up nicely for what to expect over the coming weeks. Stage 2 sets off from Bologna to the Tuscan town of Fucecchio, where the sprinters can look to take advantage of the flat finish.

Stage 3 will see riders depart Vinci, birth place of legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci, in what will be another opportunity for sprinters to take the spoils. The fourth stage is a hilly 228km route from Orbetello to Frascati and spectators can expect a punchy finale to the stage as riders battle the uphill finish.

Meanwhile, Stage 5 will be another opportunity for the fast men to show their speed, with a 35km flat line to the finish. Stage 6 is a rolling course, where the all-rounders will compete for the stage win; particularly given there is a difficult 15km climb that is peaked just 10km from the finish.

While not a proper mountain stage, Stage 7 could still prove to be a test for any of the out and out sprinters, with gradual inclines from the half way point until the finish in L’Aquila.

Stage 8 will be another sprint thriller, with a 235km route from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro. The peloton will close week one with the Giro’s second ITT; a 34.7km route that finishes in San Marino.

Following the first rest day, riders climb back onto their bikes and will take on two completely flat stages before they head into the mountains for Stage 12. While not the hardest of mountain stages, it will give the riders a first taste of the Alps and get their legs prepared for what’s to come; with relentless climbs on Stage 13, climaxing with a daunting summit finish ending in Ceresole Reale that should challenge even the best climbers.

Stage 14 will throw four intermediate climbs at the peloton, before a punchy uphill finish in the ski resort of Courmayeur. Any riders who suffered in the early mountain stages will welcome Stage 15.

At 237km, it isn’t the shortest route, but a reasonably flat opening 145km will give riders the chance to stretch their legs, before tackling a handful of smaller climbs with a short downhill finish into the town of Como.

Riders will gather their thoughts on the second rest day, before heading back to the mountains for Stage 16. It’s uphill from the off, with the peloton taking on four climbs across the 226km route, before a prolonged false flat finish in Ponte di Legno.

There’s another four climbs to battle on Stage 17 and it’s here where the General Classification (GC) standings traditionally start to take shape. Stage 18 will be a rare opportunity for the sprinters to pick up the race win, while Stage 19 once again trails through the mountains and ends with a steady 13.6km climb to San Martino Di Castrozza.

If the GC isn’t wrapped up by Stage 19, then spectators will be in for a thrilling penultimate mountain stage. The 20th stage of the Giro is a climbers dream and a sprinters nightmare.

With three intense inclines – Cima Campo (18km at 6 per cent), Passo Manghen (18.9km at 7.6 per cent) and Passo Rolle (20.6 km at 4.7 per cent) – coming in the opening 140km, we can expect ferocious attacks and aggressive riding from the off, with an exhilarating final haul up to Monte Avena.

The GC winner will be crowned the following day in Verona, following the final ITT.

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