On paper, the uphill finish in Agrigento did not really suit Arnaud Démare. However, the French champion was keen to test himself in the second stage of the Giro d’Italia. So that’s what he did with the good support of his teammates. However, the Frenchman could not keep up in the last two kilometers and the win eventually went to Diego Ulissi. On Monday, the riders will head to the Etna for the first summit finish of the Corsa Rosa.

After the victory of the world time trial champion Filippo Ganna in the opening stage in Palermo, the Giro was heading south for the second stage on Sunday. In Agrigento, an uphill finish (3.7 km at 5%) was to decide the day’s winner. The stage obviously suited the punchers more, but Arnaud Démare and his teammates still started the day with some motivation. “Let’s say it was an ‘extra’ stage today,” explained Sébastien Joly. “It was not a stage we underlined in the first place, but the guys were interested to go for it, so why not let them. It was actually quite a good idea as it allowed us to set ourselves up for the future”. From the first kilometers of the day’s stage, Ben Gastauer (AG2R-La Mondiale), Mattia Bais (Androni-Sidermec), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Etienne van Empel (Vini Fantini-Zabù) and Thomas De Gendt ( Lotto-Soudal) took the lead, but remained just 3-4 minutes in front of the bunch.

“There was good teamwork”, Sébastien Joly

As there were only five riders up front today, a few points remained to be taken in the first intermediate sprint, located after 45 kilometers. “Arnaud wanted to get involved in the sprint for the cyclamen jersey, and we had therefore prepared for it”, indicated Sébastien. “The guys lead him out well, Gaviria surprised them a bit and Arnaud got second from the peloton (2 points). It enabled us to start on the right way, even if that is not the primary goal. It would be a pity not to take one or two points that may be useful later on. It didn’t cost much and it also enabled him to do a little uphill sprint”. Afterwards, the chase behind the breakaway resumed and the Sunweb, UAE Bora-hansgrohe teams increased the pace. As expected the breakaway eventually got caught, shortly after entering the last ten kilometers and the fight for positions started in anticipation of the last climb. Groupama-FDJ then moved his sprinter up front.

“The guys worked well in the finale,” added Sébastien. “The riders of the lead-out train stayed there further than expected because it was still quite nervous and it was quite not so steep at the bottom. Ramon and Miles managed to bring Arnaud to the front, but at one point Arnaud told us over the radio that it was starting to be too hard for him. It exploded and, as expected, we all sat down.” Dropped with two kilometers to go, the French champion took it easy until the line, where Diego Ulissi outsprinted Peter Sagan and Mikkel Honoré in a three-man sprint. “There was good teamwork, both in the preparation for the intermediate sprint and the finale,” added Sébastien on today’s stage. “We could set our habits up and we now really feel that the race is on, for good”. The overall contenders’ race will resume tomorrow on the slopes of the Etna. “Although we have good climbers with Kilian and Simon, the goal is not to aim for a top 15 or 20,” concluded Sébastien. “From the start, our goal has been 100% on Arnaud and the sprints during the first two weeks. In week three, the guys will be able to seize some opportunities but tomorrow, the whole group will try to save energy. It will be a transition day for us before our first big Giro goal on Tuesday”.

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