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Van der Poel wins Giro opener as Ewan falls short

Dutch Alpecin rider Mathieu van der Poel won the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday, a 195km run from Budapest to the hilltop citadel at Visegrad.

Van der Poel edged Eritrean Biniam Girmay and Pello Bilbao to the finish line atop a 4km climb as Australian Caleb Ewan fell heavily when making his burst for the line.

One-day specialist Van Der Poel took the first race leader’s pink jersey, and collected a time bonus of 10 as the first rider across the summit.

“I knew positioning would be key,” said Van der Poel, whose team flew to the front at the foot of the climb as he then lurked patiently until the final moment.

“Tomorrow will be interesting to see if I can keep the lead in the time-trial. It’ll be difficult but I’ll try,” promised the Alpecin rider, who led the Tour de France for six days in 2021.

Ineos Grenadiers leader Richard Carapaz gained a tiny advantage over all his long-term rivals when he hung on to the shirt-tails of the winning clique to finish four seconds ahead of Bike Exchange’s Simon Yates, UAE’s Jaoa Almeida and DSM’s Romain Bardet.

The race returns to Budapest on Saturday for a testing inner-city circuit of 9.2km with the first rider down the starters ramp at 14.00 local time (1200GMT).

The 176-rider peloton left Budapest for the first of 21 stages totalling 3,446km. That prospect was no deterrent to Italian pair Mattia Bais and Filippo Tagliani who broke away as soon as the starter’s flag waved.

They were only reeled in by a reluctant peloton 13km from the finish.

The Giro opens with three days in Hungary and on Friday mounted Hussars galloped alongside the peloton, which itself looked impressive as it swept along the banks of the Danube river towards the castle at Visegrad.

The race transfers to Italy for stage four, which culminates with a potential skirmish of the big guns on the volcanic slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna.

Hungary was originally scheduled to host the start of the Giro in 2020 but that year’s race was postponed until October due to the pandemic and held entirely within Italy.

The Tour de France opening stages will be contested in Copenhagen in July, while the Vuelta a Espana in August also features a foreign start at Utrecht.

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