With stage one's team time trial now in the books, the Giro d'Italia is already producing some intriguing story lines.
Stage one is done and the Giro d’Italia is well underway. Seconds lost on stage one of a three-week race are not the end of the world, but certainly some riders will feel happier about their start than others.
Here is a look at who came out on top and who gave themselves a bit of work to do after the team time trial in San Remo.
This one may be quite obvious because they were actually the winners of the stage, but what the Australian squad has done in the team time trial discipline in recent years has been quite remarkable.
Orica make no bones about the fact they do not have a bona fide General Classification contender, but they’ve used the resources at their disposal to create perhaps the most well drilled time trial squad in professional cycling.
It may not seem the most glamorous way to make your mark – it’s not like what Giant-Alpecin have done in recent years by developing riders to win sprint stages – but it’s a great way for Orica to get their riders in the leader’s jersey in the Grand Tours.
Hark back to last year’s Giro, Orica won the team time trial in Belfast to put Svein Tuft in pink, which colleague Michael Matthews then took from him on stage two and held it for the entire first week.
The last time a TTT featured in the Tour de France, in 2013, Orica won that too, putting Simon Gerrans in yellow, which the team held for four days.
The first week of this Giro d’Italia is by no means a walk in the park, but with Gerrans in pink, Orica have a chance to hold on to the jersey for a good few days.
Some questioned what kind of shape Alberto Contador would be in for the Giro. His early season – results wise – hasn’t been spectacular and his talk of a Giro/Tour double may not have been taken as seriously as it should.
He may have looked pretty ropey himself, but his teammates carried the Spaniard to a great time, finishing second behind Orica having given up seven seconds to the winners.
But for Contador those seconds don’t matter. He’s the leading GC contender on the road, enjoying a six-second lead over Fabio Aru, 12 over Rigoberto Uran and a full 20 seconds on Richie Porte.
The long time trial on stage 14 aside, Contador is strong and wily enough not to give back any of those seconds to his rivals, so it’ll be fascinating to see how the big guns try and attack in the first week of racing to get themselves back in the hunt.
He’s not looking at his strongest after stage one, but now that he doesn’t have to be the one to set the pace on week one he can use the first few stages to get his confidence and form back up.
Love them or loathe them, you have to kind of admire what Astana did on stage one. At one point it looked as if the team may not even compete in the Giro, let alone have a contender to win it.
With their licence issues seemingly sorted, the Kazakh team went straight about their business and delivered a top-three performance to put their GC contender, Aru, in a great position for the first week.
There will be some in the sport and on the side of the road who don’t want the team in the professional peloton, but Astana showed they’re not letting the politics get in the way of their performance and left Aru within seven seconds of his biggest rival in Contador.
The butchery of an old sporting phrase doesn’t really apply to a three-week stage race. You can’t win the Giro on stage one, but you can certainly lose it. Richie Porte hasn’t lost this race by any means – there’s still 20 stages left – but it’s become a little bit more tricky now.
Finishing 27 seconds down on Orica isn’t the end of the world, but finishing 20 seconds down on Alberto Contador could be some cause for concern. Team Sky pragmatically said that seconds in the first week are not an issue, by the third week it’ll be minutes that separate the riders.
But Porte now knows he has to attack Contador, Aru and Uran at some point if he has any hope of winning the Giro. The Australian has more than enough power in the time trial to see off Aru, and over the course of nearly 60km against the clock, 20 seconds isn’t a huge issue.
But in an individual time trial you cannot control what your opponent is doing – Uran is a very competent time triallist, as he showed by winning last year’s long one. Contador in his heyday was also very handy against the clock and can’t be discounted.
Will Porte be happy to wait until stage 14 to try and get seconds back, or will he make some moves in the hilly first week to get back on par with his rivals?
The Canadian former winner was bigging up his chances of being competitive in this year’s race, but it could barely have started worse for him.
His Cannondale-Garmin team rolled over the line 53 seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge in San Remo and the 34-year-old’s results this season show no indication that he’ll be strong enough to make any of that time back in the next three weeks.
A top-10 finish overall would be nothing to sneeze at, but Cannondale’s strategy should probably change to targeting stage wins over the General Classification – if they were ever really serious about that challenge in the first place.
Like Hesjedal, Domenico Pozzovivo was never really in the conversation to challenge for the win in Italy, but is another one capable of a solid top-10 finish.
Losing 48 seconds in the opening stage again will likely consign the Ag2r-La Mondiale rider to an also-ran position in the GC, but the Italian will still likely want to turn in some good performances in front of his home crowd and back up his fifth overall last year.