A boutique window for one of the most picturesque nations on the planet, this year's Giro started explosively with a 15km prologue into Sicily's largest city, Palermo. Fresh from flattening the opposition at the World Championships, it was the Italian Ganna who took the Maglia Rosa on day one, but the broad consencus was that Ganna's biggest duty was to pass it to team mate Geriant Thomas a little later in the week.
THE GIRO'S FIRST WEEK IN IMAGES
It's not the wild circus of the Tour, nor the late season madness of the Vuelta. The Giro is distinct in it's character - it is a race of beauty, passion, and tradition. Following the first week of this year's edition has been no different.
Stage 2 was less ceremonial than the opening day, but similarly processionary. An unchallenging parcours saw the usual suspects try to break, but well into transfer season with sprinters looking to prove themselves, the finishline was undoubtedly reserved for the big guns. In a battle fought between UAE's Ulissi and Bora's Sagan, it was the former that took the victory.
Changing the pace, and turning a page, the third day shook up the status quo. An ascent of Etna on the cards, GC contenders were looking around and sizing each other up. Before the race left the neutralized section though, a stray bidon felled race favourite and Ineos team leader Geriant Thomas.
Despite a clearly horrific impact, he got back onto his bike and kept with the bunch until the incline. While Ganna in Pink pulled him along, it was clear that the Maglia Rosa was to be decided further up the road, with a group of 30 taking on the job of chasing Jonathan Caceido - the Equadorian national champion.
Claiming the day as his own, Caceido drove onwards, shelling Visconti and powering on solo for a daring win from the break. Conspicuous by absence in the flurry of activity for the GC selection was Simon Yates - the Yorkshireman losing ground and time to other contenders, but Thomas' loss of 12 minutes effectively ended his race. From an uncontrolled and frenetic wildcard fight on the climb, Quick-Step's Almeida emerged in the Maglia Rosa, but Team Bahrain McLaren's Pello Bilbao had shown strong solo form, keeping with attacks and ushering himself into 3rd on GC.
Stage 4 saw a more settled parcours, with a climb dropped conveniently at the day's mid-point purely as a conversation point. With the morning's announcements declaring Geriant Thomas out of the race, the peloton idled along, knowing full well that the sprinters were to have their fun. Whilst Viviani was muted as a strong contender, it came to battle between the nearly man in Sagan and the French National Champ in Arnaud Demare. A tyre's width alone claimed it for the Frenchman.
With the startline on day 5 witnessing a move from Sicily to the mainland, the day once more promised action in the GC. The day's profile rising sharply with 20km to go from the Calabrian town of Cosenza, there was plotting afoot. With GC ambitions destroyed, Ineos's Ganna stole himself into the breakaway. Behind him, whilst action had been expected, it never really materilaised, fizzling and sputtering rather than boiling over. Ganna hauled his 83 kilo frame over the line ahead of his breakaway group, while Caceido lost over 16 minutes on the climb, moving Team Bahrain McLaren into second on GC, just 34 seconds shy of the leader.
With a pattern of one day up hill and one day flat, Stage 6 offered more sprinting fodder. An assortment of early attacks, sustained, flailing, and caught by the main bunch. With 7km to go, the team sorted out their trains. Looking around, it was Astana building a neat platform, with Sagan once more lurking, but an astonishing cruise around the main group saw Demare once more sail through the bunch, riding with defiance this time and gapping the rest of the sprinting field in an impressive showing for the French National Maillot. For Peter Sagan, only 9th place, despite having worn the sprinter's maillot on the day - a by product of the Slovakian's tenacity in intermediate sprints.
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