Also pulling on the red points jersey after the win, Viviani didn’t panic as Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal opened up his sprint early in the closing metres. Instead opting to lock onto the wheel of Hofland, the Team Sky rider was able to edge out victory after lead-out work from both Bernhard Eisel and Salvatore Puccio in the final kilometres.
The day also went well for team leader Richie Porte, who was protected throughout the 177km test and remained towards the head of the peloton, avoiding a number of late crashes which held up some of his rivals.
“It’s incredible,” said a visibly thrilled Viviani after a stage which saw him achieve his dream.
“This year I’m with a new team and with a new motivation. We are here to do a good GC with Richie and to win the Giro with him. That means I don’t have as many guys for the final, but as you saw today the guys did a perfect job for Richie and also for me. In the last 3km Salvatore Puccio and Bernie (Eisel) were there for me. They did incredible work.
“I saw Hofland win last week in Yorkshire and today when I saw him sprint I thought he would be a good guy to follow. Greipel started the sprint from a long way, but I knew the road went up and I waited for the right moment to start my sprint. I’m really, really happy.”
Seventh on the stage for Michael Matthews meant the overall lead of the race changed hands, with the Australian moving into the maglia rosa for Orica-GreenEdge.
Up front and out of trouble
The first road stage proper kicked off in Albenga and five riders carved out a sizeable gap as a relaxed peloton let them disappear to the tune of eight minutes.
Work from Orica-GreenEdge and Lampre-Merida early kept tabs on the situation, with Team Sky positioning themselves towards the front of the peloton to protect both Porte and Viviani.
A sprinkling of crashes caused splits to form in the bunch on two laps of the finishing circuit in Genoa, yet Porte was guided by Eisel and Team Sky stayed safe of danger.
With 3km to go Eisel switched roles and along with Puccio the duo kept the pace high for Viviani. The Italian melted into the pack, picked his wheel and showed a cool head to take the biggest victory of his career.
“It’s nice to be racing. It wasn’t an easy stage but I’m looking forward to the next few days,” he told Eurosport after the finish.
“I had most of the team there supporting me and then with 3km to go when I was okay they took Viviani up to the front. It’s fantastic to win. It’s good for the team after yesterday and it’s more than we could have expected.”
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky 4:13:18
2. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
3. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
4. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Giant-Alpecin
5. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling
6. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
8. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
9. Daniele Colli (Ita) Nippo – Vini Fantini
10. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
46. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
167. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 4:43
GC after Stage 2
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 4:32:44
2. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
3. Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
4. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:07
6. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo
7. Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo
8. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
10. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:13
70. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:53
162. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 5:31