This article originally appeared on VeloNews.com
Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) won the reduced sprint atop the short climb to Agrigento to take stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday. The Italian rider accelerated first to distance Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mikkel Honoré (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), taking the seventh Giro stage victory of his career. “I am really happy to get my seventh career victory at the Giro,” Ulissi said after the stage. “It is a great personal satisfaction, but also for the team: we got off to a great start in this Corsa Rosa, putting into practice what we planned in the team meeting.” All the key GC contenders finished shortly behind the lead sprint, with Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) retaining the pink jersey and no movent among the favorites. However, after seeing Miguel Angel Lopez crash and abandon stage 1 Saturday, there was further bad news for Astana and Jakob Fuglsang after key wingman Aleksandr Vlasov abandoned the stage with illness. The 149km stage along the coast of Sicily to Agrigento finished on a grinding 3.7km climb averaging at around 5 percent gradient. A break of five went clear early on, with Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) active in scooping mountain points wherever possible. The peloton seemed relaxed in letting the break go, and the group forged a comfortable gap as Ineos Grenadiers controlled the bunch through the first half of the race, protecting Ganna and Thomas. UAE-Team Emirates and Sunweb added to the impetus as the race came toward its final hours as they looked to set up Ulissi and Michael Matthews respectively. With 20km to go, the break still held around one minute, but with the peloton all together behind them and the teams of puncheurs looking to set up the summit-top sprint, their chances were doomed. The break was finally caught in the final 10km as teams massed across the wide roads at the base of the climb. With 3km to the line and the gradient beginning to bite, the peloton stayed together, with Groupama-FDJ, Sunweb and Mitchelton-Scott massing at the front, with Thomas and a handful of Ineos riders close behind. UAE-Team Emirates lit it up the action with Valerio Conti putting in a big turn on 1300 meters to go, stringing out the bunch under the pace. Luca Wackermann (Vini-Zabu KTM) attacked from behind the UAE-Team Emirates train, with Honoré following. Ulissi went next as Sagan followed a few bike lengths back. The group of four all came together in the final 500m after Sagan ground his way across, dropping Matthews from his wheel. The quartet came to the lip of the climb together and Ulissi opened up a powerful move that none of his rivals were able to respond to, edging out a winning gap as the gradient eased in the final meters toward the line. “On the final climb, I asked Conti to up the pace, to tire out the sprinters,” Ulissi said. “Valerio was perfect and laid the foundations to allow me to play my cards in what was a difficult sprint, especially when Sagan came back.” All the GC contenders finished in the bunch five seconds behind the sprint, meaning there are no changes on the GC, with Ganna leading by 22 seconds, and Joao Almedia and Geraint Thomas second and third overall.