Mathieu van der Poel claimed the first leader's jersey of the 2022 Giro d'Italia ©Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel claimed the race leader’s pink jersey by marking his Giro d’Italia debut with victory on the opening stage in Visegrad.

The Dutch rider was billed as the favourite for the opening 195-kilometre stage, which was expected to conclude with an uphill sprint finish at the hilltop citadel in Visegrad.

Belgium’s Lawrence Naesen and Germany’s Lennard Kämna attempted solo attacks in the closing kilometres to spring a surprise in the first of three stages in Hungary.

The sprint teams were able to close the respective moves, before a chaotic final kilometre.

Australia’s Caleb Ewan crashed out of contention after touching wheels with Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay.

Girmay remained upright but was beaten to the line by Van der Poel, as the Alpecin-Fenix rider came through to win the stage in a time of 4 hours 35min 28sec.

Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert’s Girmay and Bahrain-Victorious Spanish rider Pello Bilbao completed the top three on the same time as the winner.

Van der Poel has now secured leader’s jerseys in both his Grand Tour appearances, after winning the second stage of last year’s Tour de France.

Mathieu van der Poel, right, overtook Biniam Girmay in a sprint finish on the opening stage ©Getty Images
Mathieu van der Poel, right, overtook Biniam Girmay in a sprint finish on the opening stage ©Getty Images

"I knew positioning was going to be the key for winning today and it's been difficult because I've been boxed in a few times," said Van der Poel.

"Only at the very end I realised that I could beat the sprinters.

"It's incredible to wear the Maglia Rosa after the yellow jersey.

"But there's a time trial tomorrow and I don't know if I will be able to defend it.

"I'm going to try for sure."

Van der Poel will hold a four-second lead over Girmay heading into the second stage due to time bonuses secured on the stage.

The Netherlands’ Wilco Kelderman and Bauke Mollema, and 2019 champion Richard Carapaz of Ecuador gained four seconds on their rivals after finishing in the top seven on the stage.

A 9.2km individual time trial will take place in Budapest tomorrow, before a 201km stage from Kaposvár to Balatonfüred complete Hungary’s hosting of this year’s race start.

The race will then resume in Italy.