Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel won the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday to take the first pink jersey of the race on his Italian Tour debut.

Van der Poel, who rides for Alpecin-Fenix, overtook Eritrean Biniam Girmay at the end of a chaotic sprint on the last uphill to the citadel in Visegrád, in the first of three stages in Hungary.

“I knew that positioning was going to be the key to winning,” said Van der Poel. At times it was a bit difficult. I got boxed in a couple of times on the final ascent. It took a lot of energy to catch up with the rivals in front of me near the end. I just launched my sprint and it was very close because the legs were full of lactate, of course.

He also held the Tour de France yellow jersey for six days after winning stage two last year, in his only other Grand Tour race.

“It’s amazing, after the yellow jersey to wear the pink now,” he said. “Now we will see what the time trial brings tomorrow. I’ll try again for sure. It will be difficult, but I’m going to try.”

Pello Bilbao was third at the end of the 195-kilometre (121-mile) undulating route that started in Budapest.

Caleb Ewan was aiming for victory but crashed with less than 200 meters to go after touching Girmay’s rear tire.

Two Drone Hopper riders led the stage for most of the day after breaking away shortly after the start. Italians Mattia Bias and Filippo Tagliani broke away easily and went on to hold a maximum lead of 11 minutes before the peloton caught up with them.


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