A long, cold and wet 227-kilometer sprint stage greeted the riders for the opening day at the Tour of Croatia, a pitiless return to competition for Giacomo Nizzolo, who started his first race of 2017.
The expected sprint played out, but Nizzolo, far from his top form, couldn't prosper from the good leadout and excellent positioning and faded to fifth place in the last meters. It was not unexpected after his lengthy layoff to a nagging injury and with less than a month of hard training in his legs. The tendinitis may be gone, but a return to race shape will take time.
"Today was the first race after six months without racing and a long stage, so it was not easy," explained Nizzolo. "But it was nice to have the feeling of being back in the bunch. At the end, I asked the boys to try their best anyway because it was important to have the feeling again to do something and try and make a result.
"The guys made a great job, a great leadout, and we were there to try and fight for the victory. I cannot ask more of the team, and also to my legs! Now I am not able to lead the sprint at 200 meters to go."
Sacha Modolo (UAE Team Emirates) won the sprint and will don the leader's jersey into stage two tomorrow.
The six-day race is a good initiation back to racing for Nizzolo, who is starting from zero and has nowhere to go but up. Despite his lack of race form, Trek-Segafredo will rally around their sprint leader this week and with a few more races under his belt, and strong team support, anything is possible.
"What can I say? I am happy because of the result, and of course, with more condition, I could be better and fighting for the victory," added Nizzolo, pleased with his return to action. "We just need to continue like this, and we will improve."