AGRIGENTO, Sicily — For his seventh career stage win in the Giro d'Italia, Diego Ulissi beat the best in the business in a finish tailor-made for three-time world champion Peter Sagan.
Helped by a perfect setup from UAE-Team Emirates teammate Valerio Conti, Ulissi outsprinted Sagan on the short, final climb to win Stage 2 alongside Agrigento's spectacularly intact ancient Greek temples on Sunday.
"I noticed that we were climbing too slowly so I told Conti to accelerate and try to make it tough to tire out the sprinters," Ulissi said. "We were perfect. … When you're able to beat the strongest riders it's really extraordinary."
Crossing the finish line with his arms raised several bike lengths ahead of Sagan, Ulissi completed the 149-kilometer (93-mile) leg from Alcamo in under 3 ½ hours.
Filippo Ganna held onto the pink jersey he grabbed by winning the opening time trial in Palermo.
Danish rider Mikkel Frølich Honoré crossed third with the same time as Ulissi and Sagan, while Ganna and the other overall favorites finished in the main pack five seconds behind.
Ganna remained 22 seconds ahead of Joao Almeida, while Geraint Thomas — the 2018 Tour de France champion — moved up from fourth to third, 23 seconds behind.
The final 4 kilometers were uphill at an average gradient of 5% with one short stretch at 9% placed 2.5 kilometers from the finish.
An early breakaway of five riders gained an advantage of nearly five minutes on the main pack, with breakaway rider Thomas De Gendt winning all three of the intermediate sprints.
Ganna's and Thomas' Ineos Grenadiers team led the chase and caught the breakaway with just under 10 kilometers to go.
The victory was extra sweet for Ulissi, who began the season stuck in quarantine in Abu Dhabi when his second daughter was born in March.
Aleksandr Vlasov of the Astana team withdrew midway through the stage due to stomach sickness. Vlasov had been seen as a possible overall contender behind Astana captain Jakob Fuglsang, who struggled in the opening time trial.
It's been a rough start for Astana, which also had Miguel Angel Lopez crash out during the time trial.
The race should heat up Monday when Stage 3 takes the peloton up the Mount Etna volcano after a 150-kilometer route from Enna.
"Tomorrow I'll work to help Thomas," Ganna said.
Then there's one more stage in Sicily on Tuesday before the race moves over to mainland Italy.
The Giro was originally scheduled to start with three stages in Hungary and run from May 9-31, but it was postponed and revised because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The race ends on Oct. 25 with an individual time trial in Milan.