OLBIA, Sardinia (AP) — Lukas Postlberger had a dream Grand Tour debut as the Austrian surprisingly won the opening stage of the 100th Giro d’Italia to claim the pink jersey on Friday.
Victory was expected to go to one of the top sprinters but Postlberger, a leadout man, hit the front with two kilometers to go in support of Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Sam Bennett, and when a gap opened behind him he simply kept on going.
Postlberger looked back several times, almost in disbelief, as none of the sprinters appeared keen to take control. The 25-year-old rider even had time to raise his arms in the air as he crossed the line, winning in 5 hours, 13 minutes, 35 seconds.
“We wanted to try for a sprint for the final for Sam (Bennett). Through the city the leadout trains, I don’t know, they lost my wheel or something and I had a gap,” said Postlberger, who became the first Austrian to wear the pink jersey.
“I heard over the radio, ‘C’mon, Posty go try!’ and I put all I have in. It worked out: victory for the team, first professional victory for me, maglia rosa.”
Caleb Ewan won the bunch sprint for second place followed by Andre Greipel at the end of the 206-kilometer (128-mile) leg along the northern coast of Sardinia, from Alghero to Olbia.
There was a minute’s silence before the start, in tribute to Michele Scarponi, who died last month at the age of 37 after a collision with a van while training near his home.
The Astana team, which Scarponi would have led at this race, was on the front line of the bunch for the very first part of the course.
It was a remarkably calm opening stage for much of the day. There was an early break of six riders whose advantage went up to more than seven minutes as there was no particular urgency in the peloton.
Mirco Maestri was dropped but Cesare Benedetti, Marcin Bialoblocki, Pavel Brutt, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Eugert Zhupa still led on the third and final…