Giro d'Italia: Jonathan Milan wins hectic finish in San Salvo on stage 2
·9 min read
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Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) claimed the first Grand Tour stage win of his career, sprinting to victory on stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia after a late crash split the bunch.
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Kaden Groves had the strongest lead-out from Alpecin-Deceuninck, but 22-year-old Milan emerged from the Australian's slipstream in the final 100 metres to take a convincing victory.
David Dekker (Arkéa-Samsic) placed second from the tightly-packed cluster that crossed in Milan's wake, with Groves taking the final spot on the podium.
"I think I keep not believing it. It's something incredible. I'm without words," said Milan.
"I'm really happy, I cannot believe it. My first Giro, second stage. Yesterday I did a nice time trial but I could never imagine that today was coming a victory. I cannot believe it. I am just happy."
The late crash occurred just outside the 3km to go banner, the point at which GC times are neutralised in the event of mishaps, leaving several GC riders with a deficit of around 19 seconds.
The road narrowed in the final 5km and a squeeze saw a few riders bumped out to the right, some crashing into a barrier. Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) was among them and was unable to contest the finish. Meanwhile, the spill and the narrow road saw the bunch split in two, with only a mini peloton going on to hit the finishing straight.
At the latest timings, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) all lost 19 seconds.
Race leader Remco Evenepoel was well shepherded by his Soudal-QuickStep teammates to come through his first day in the pink jersey unscathed.
"Everything was pretty fine. We were in front so we were out of trouble but it was a nasty crash, I think," he said.
"I actually saw it happen. We know who we can blame for this crash, but that's racing, it's not a nice move but luckily we stayed out of trouble and arrived safe."
How it unfolded
The opening road stage started out in confusion as Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) turned up in the blue jersey as mountains classification leader, only to have to hand it over to Geoghegan Hart, due to timing errors from the uphill section of the stage 1 time trial. McNulty himself wore the white jersey, despite being third in the young rider classification, with Evenepoel in pink and fellow UAE rider Joao Almeida electing to wear his Portuguese champion's jersey.
The action on the road was quieter for most of the day, with a five-man breakaway going clear pretty much from kilometre-zero. In there were: Paul Lapeira (AG2R Citroën), Thomas Champion (Cofidis), Mattia Bais (Eolo-Kometa), Stefano Gandin (Corratec-Selle Italia), and Alessandro Verre (Arkéa-Samsic).
The 202km route down the Adriatic coast featured two minor category-4 climbs, either side of a longer climb that wasn't categorised but instead counted as the second of two intermediate sprints. The breakaway built a lead of nearly five minutes but were soon wound in to a tighter leash.
The first of the climbs came at Silvi Paese after around 80km, and Verre produced a bizarre barrage of out-of-the-saddle accelerations, first sprinting at the base of the climb, and then again 500 metres from the top. On both occasions he was brought to heel, the last time seeing him effectively lead it out for the others, with Lapeira taking the maximum three points ahead of Champion and Bais.
Suitably disappointed, Verre then decided to drop from the break and drift back to the bunch, leaving three out front with a lead of two minutes as they approached the 100km mark.
That was the signal for the first of the two intermediate sprints, and it was Gandin who skipped away to take maximum points in both the ciclamino jersey points classification and the separate intermediate sprints classification. In the bunch behind, several riders were tempted out for the remaining ciclamino points and it was Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) who got there first ahead of Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
Next up was the second sprint at the top of that longer climb up into Chieti, where Gandin once again claimed maximum points in the intermediate sprints standings, plus three irrelevant bonus seconds. That one didn't count for the points classification, so there was no action in the bunch.
After a short dip downhill, the road kicked up again for the second categorised climb into Ripa Teatina, where Lapeira launched a long sprint and only just managed to hang on for his second scalp, with Champion forced wide around the late left-hand bend and running out of road. That gave Lapeira the maximum six points from two climbs and he would later visit the podium in the blue jersey as mountains classification leader.
Job done, Lapeira decided to drop from the breakaway with 60km to go, leaving the remaining three to carry on - and attack each other - with a modest lead of less than two minutes. 20km later they sat up and, after a round of fist-bumps, were absorbed back into a full peloton with 38km to go.
It was early for a breakaway catch but no fresh attacks came and the race drifted quietly towards the final 20km, where the pace increased as the fight for position ramped up. QuickStep were strong around Evenepoel, who spent much of the run-in three places from the front, while other teams came and went. It was all looking straight forward until the road narrowed in the final 5km and then, just past the 4km to go banner, there was movement on the right side of the bunch and suddenly a few riders were bumped out to the side.
Cavendish was involved but was uninjured, while Martin Tusveld (DSM) and Max Kanter (Movistar) were among those down, and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) among those held up. Several riders squeezed past the damage but then a couple more stalled and moved left into the road, forming a more definitive cut-off that split the peloton.
Just over 40 survived to contest the finish, where Milan claimed his first Grand Tour victory in some style.