In the narrow and twisty final of Tirreno-Adriatico stage 2, Alpecin-Fenix sprinter Tim Merlier was victorious, while 20-year-old Olav Kooij again showed flashes of greatness, finishing second from a terrible position in a bunch sprint against top-class competition.
It was a relatively easy day, considering the hilly profile and the possibility that some teams might make it hard on the late climbs at the back end of a 220 kilometre long stage. Every sprinter, including Mark Cavendish, finished in the peloton despite some being briefly distanced on the longer climbs. The most dangerous attack was from none other than Marc Soler, who launched with 20 kilometres to go. Anthony Perez from Cofidis was marking him, but eventually got dropped.
Soler is riding for UAE-Emirates, who brought to Tirreno-Adriatico Pascal Ackermann as a sprinter. Soler made the race harder as FDJ-Groupama was chasing full-gas after him as they had Arnaud Demare for the sprint. Soler was chased back with 3 km to go when the sprint teams started to fully assemble.
Israel Premier-Tech like in the UAE Tour was at the front pacing hard in the last kilometres, but their lead-out came up short also this time for Giacomo Nizzolo, who got swallowed in the peloton by the washing machine effect after the lead-out was done early.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl were working for Davide Ballerini, despite Mark Cavendish being in the peloton. Cavendish had previously been seen at the back of the peloton, presumably tired after the climbs. As they entered the final 500 metres, Peter Sagan was in the perfect position behind Ballerini. Both of them launched their sprints with clear air in front of them, but were overtaken by the pure sprinters up the left side, Tim Merlier, Kaden Groves and Olav Kooij.
The finish was very narrow and literally the race finished in a corner. Needless to say, the finish was very dangerous, considering how fast sprinters are going even in dry conditions, and it was fortunate there was no rain. Tim Merlier won the stage, while Kooij, who started his sprint deep in the peloton, was extremely fast in the final metres and somehow finished second.
Another impressive performance by the 20-year-old Dutchman. He had problems with positioning also in the UAE Tour, but it is hard to be in a good position when you are fighting practically alone. Both in the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico Jumbo-Visma are concentrating for GC. It would be interesting to see what Kooij can do if he has a lead-out train or at least a one-descent lead-out man like Mike Teunissen or Christophe Laporte at his disposal, who could help him with positioning.
Stage 3 is another chance for the sprinters. Caleb Ewan, Mark Cavendish, Elia Viviani, Arnaud Demare, Matteo Moschetti, Pascal Ackermann and Nacer Bouhanni all finished outside of the top 10 today. Tomorrow is a chance for some of them to get a better result, with all eyes on Ewan once again.