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Elia Viviani wins stage 2; Michael Matthews takes lead at Giro

Michael Matthews takes the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia as Elia Viviani out-kicks the field for the victory in stage 2

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GENOA, Italy — Sky’s Elia Viviani sprinted to victory in the second stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday as Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) took over the maglia rosa.

The crash-marred 177km stage from Albenga and Genoa saw an early break from Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli), Lukasz Owsian (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Eugert Zhupa (Southeast) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo).

They built a lead of some nine minutes before it all came to naught inside the final 12km, and in the end Viviani took the sprint from Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and André Greipel (Lotto Soudal.

The 26-year-old was predictably delighted to win his first grand-tour stage.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “This year, with a new team, I have new motivation. It didn’t go the way we hoped yesterday in the TTT, so this is a tremendous joy.”

The main goal is to win the Giro overall for team leader Richie Porte, Viviani continued, adding: “Today the guys make perfect work for Richie — and also for me. Maybe Greipel started the sprint really long. I knew the road went up a little bit, and waited.”

Hofland thought the victory would be his and was surprised to see Viviani overhauling both him and Greipel.

“When I caught Greipel, it seemed perfect,” Hofland said. “When I looked to the right, I saw a wheel approaching. I tried to accelerate afterwards. We were almost at the finish line, but I just couldn’t give anything more. It was just not good enough.”

Greipel conceded that he opened it up too early, with about 300 meters to go.

“I made that choice because I didn’t want to get boxed in,” he said. “Fifty meters from the end Hofland and Viviani passed me by. I would have loved to win, but the others were better today. The preparation was fine, but the final touch was missing. Hopefully I can win next time.”

Matthews, who took the overall lead from teammate Simon Gerrans, who slipped to second, said it was a hot, hard day, with a finale that was quite technical “and fairly fast, too.”

“We made the decision to go early for the last corner, but maybe it was too early,” he said, guessing that the peloton averaged 50 kph for the stage. “All together it made for a pretty hard final. It’s an honor to be back in the pink jersey. The important thing was to keep it in the team.”

IAM’s Heinrich Haussler would agree. He had a very hard day indeed, crashing twice and finishing 188th, nearly 12 minutes down.

AG2R’s climber Domenico Pozzovivo likewise had a rough ride, finishing 99th and giving up more than a minute.

And Etixx-Quick-Step lost one of its helpers for the hills when Pieter Serry — who had just returned to racing after breaking a collarbone at the Volta a Catalunya — was forced to abandon after hitting the deck and straining some ligaments in his right shoulder.

“Unfortunately today we have bad news with Serry, who was one of the important guys for the climbs,” said team captain Rigoberto Uran. “But he was involved in a crash in the final kilometers in a fall that he couldn’t avoid. It’s a pity overall for him. The team and I wish him a fast recovery.”

Monday’s third stage is a short but steep 136km from Rapallo to Sestri Levante.