[Programming note: Our live threads will be transformed into post-race threads all throughout the Giro.]
Alpecin-Fenix star Mathieu van der Poel delivered another one of his career goals by capturing the opening stage and leader’s pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia in an electrifying sprint in Visegrád, Hungary. Atop a five-km closing climb that saw a few different riders, climbers and sprinters alike, try their hand at the stage win, the Dutch classics ace followed the surest wheel, that of Intermarché-Wanty sprinter Biniam Girmay, into the final 50 meters, coming around climber Pello Bilbao and sprinter Magnus Cort Nielsen, and with super-fast finisher Caleb Ewan ready to battle it out. But van der Poel, on the left, was just a bit too strong for the 22-year-old Eritrean, and Ewan spilled dramatically across the road after apparently touching his front wheel to Girmay’s rear tire, leaving the Dutchman to win.
The day proceeded along the Danube River with an escape from a pair of Drone Hopper-Androni Gioccatoli riders, Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani, on the loose, while the peloton took in the scenery outside greater Budapest in central Hungary. The pair never got far enough to threaten the peloton, with major spoils including the maglia rosa awaiting today’s winner, and they were swallowed up well before the final 5km where the peloton turned right off the riparian promenade and onto the gentle closing climb. First Lawrence Naesen of AG2R and then Bora’s Leonard Kämna launched solo bids, but there were simply too many aces spoiling for this stage to get far. That led to some chaos in the final 2km, and the realization that Ewan made it to the front undoubtedly dissuaded any of the climbing specialists from bothering. Meanwhile, van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team had him well positioned until the last km, where he briefly appeared lost in the shuffle. However, Like a gleaming neon beacon, Girmay’s Intermarché kit was easy to pick out from the TV screen, and no doubt van der Poel saw him too.
Van der Poel has now held the leadership in consecutive grand tours, after an emotional turn in the maillot jaune last summer. He doesn’t expect to have it for long, but it was mission accomplished for the Dutch star and a riveting day for cycling fans in Hungary and around the world. Results:
1 VAN DER POEL Mathieu, Alpecin-Fenix, 4:35:28
2 GIRMAY Biniam, Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux, s.t.
3 BILBAO Pello, Bahrain - Victorious, s.t.
4 CORT Magnus, EF Education-EasyPost, s.t.
5 KELDERMAN Wilco, BORA - hansgrohe, s.t.
6 CARAPAZ Richard, INEOS Grenadiers, s.t.
7 MOLLEMA Bauke, Trek - Segafredo, s.t.
8 ULISSI Diego, UAE Team Emirates
9 VENDRAME Andrea, AG2R Citroën Team, at 0:04
10 SKJELMOSE JENSEN Mattias, Trek - Segafredo, s.t.
Budapest - Visegrád 195 km
Mamma mia! It’s Giro-time finally, I can smell summer already. We start off with three days in Hungary and in a weird turn of events the TT stage comes after the first road stage.
Expected finish: 17:00-17:30 CEST
Bálint Bakfark of the Day: Mathieu van der Poel
Some say the oldest man in the world will win, some say a lovable Eritrean. Here we don’t deal in dystopias or utopias but in sensible reality.