Powless wins U23 Giro d’Italia stage 1, takes pink jersey

American Neilson Powless serves up a surprise victory in stage 1 of the under-23 Giro d'Italia Friday in Imola, Italy.

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American Neilson Powless served up a surprise victory in stage 1 of the under-23 Giro d’Italia Friday in Imola, Italy. The Axeon Hagens Berman rider won the day nine seconds ahead of BMC Development’s Bram Welten. Giovanni Lonardi (ASD) was third in the bunch sprint.

“I was not expecting to take the first day,” Powless, 20, said. “I was expecting it to go to a sprinter. After I attacked at five K [to go], I was like well, you can’t pass on an opportunity. So just go for it.”

The 132.2km route started and finished in Imola. The first day of the seven-stage race included two climbs, but they were modest, only rated as third-category challenges.

On Saturday, Powless will defend his 13-second overall lead in a 145.8km stage 2 around Castellarano. The peloton will race four 31.2km circuits, each with a two-kilometer climb to San Valentino. The race finishes at the top of that climb, which averages 10 percent.

The race, also known as the Girobio, was last held in 2012 when American Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Drapac) won ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana).