Ganna delights the Tifosi with another Giro time trial win
The Giro d’Italia got off to a wonderful start for the Italian fans as Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) trounced the field in the opening stage time trial, adding another Giro time trial win to the three he won last year.
Any doubts concerning the world champion’s form following a couple of underwhelming time trial performances at the Tour de Romandie were quickly forgotten, as he put in a time that was a whole 10 seconds quicker than the next best, Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma).
The win means that, for a second year running, Ganna will be the first rider to don the iconic pink jersey at this year’s race, an image that will surely resonate across the delighted Italian press.
With no other time trial until the final day of the race, this stage was (along with a defence of his world title in the autumn) the major goal of his season, and it was clear from the way he attacked into every corner and looked on the limit throughout just how much he wanted the win.
For all the doubts about his form, the result never really looked in doubt once Ganna was out on the road, and he’ll now relish another day in pink tomorrow on a flat parcours that should see him defend it comfortably.
Evenepoel back with a strong ride
After over eight months out of racing, Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) made his long-awaited return with a strong ride that suggests he’ll be a major player during the race.
“I did everything I could,” he said prior to his ride, commenting on his build-up to his participation at the Giro. “I gave the maximum in training. Is it good enough to be ready? We will see during the Giro."
His ride suggests he might well be. While it wasn’t quite at the level of his formidable pre-crash form last summer, he still seems to be in far better shape than you’d expect someone who has been out for so long.
In fact, the only GC candidate to post a better time was his teammate João Almeida, who went two seconds quicker to finish fourth. With some punchy climbs on stage three and an uphill finish on stage four to come, Almeida may well have his eye on taking the pink jersey this week, just like he did last year.
Both Evenepoel and Almeida are time trial specialists, and therefore will have expected to gain time over the other favourites today, but this was nevertheless a very promising stage for Deceuninck-Quick-Step. On the basis of today, both could be potential GC challengers.
A good day for some GC riders...
As expected on such a short time trial, there weren’t any major gaps between the riders tipped to battle for high GC placings, but some GC riders will nevertheless be much happier with how their ride went than others.
Behind the Deceuninck-Quick-Step pair, Alexander Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) was the highest placed of the favourites. He finished 11th, losing just seven seconds to Almeida, in what was a much better start to his Giro debut last year, when he was struck with illness and abandoned on just the second day. The young Russian is more known for his climbing than his time trialling, so the signs are that he could put in a serious bid for pink.
The two pre-race favourites, Simon Yates (BikeExchange) and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), will also be happy with their rides. They set out one after the other, giving us a chance to compare their rides directly, and they were ultimately very evenly matched, with Yates (at 38 seconds down on Ganna’s time) going just one second quicker. They were among the best performers among the GC contenders, which is especially impressive given how both are lightweight riders who usually expect to lose time against the clock.
Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) will be another happy GC candidate, posting the same time as his compatriot Yates — a time that his team manager Jonathan Vaughters said was “better than expected.”
And finally Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) posted a time that indicates he’s not being bothered by the wrist injury sustained in the build-up to the Giro. Considering how that injury threatened to prevent him from riding altogether, he’ll certainly take a finishing position of 50th at 41 seconds, that sees him grouped tougher on GC with many of his expected rivals.
...and a bad day for others
Despite the short length of the time trial, a handful of GC contenders have still been left with time deficits that they will have to work hard to make up later in the race.
Last year’s surprise runner-up finisher Jai Hindley (DSM) made a slower start to this year’s race, finishing 73rd at 46 seconds, significantly lower than his 46th finish at last year’s opening time trial.
Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was also notably slower compared to his breakthrough ride at the Tour de France a couple of years ago; whereas in that race’s (albeit longer and hillier) time trial he was 15th, today he finished just outside of the top 100 at 55 seconds.
Time trials have long been the bane of Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), Romain Bardet (DSM), and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), and that was again the case today, with each losing 49, 52, and 57 seconds respectively. They’ll all be grateful that they won't have to ride another time trial until the final day of the race.
Jumbo-Visma are the standout team of the day
While their main stars like Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss, and Wout van Aert are sitting the Giro out to save themselves for the Tour de France, Jumbo-Visma’s less heralded riders enjoyed an excellent opening to the Giro.
Tobias Foss and Edoardo Affini were the surprise second and third-place finishers behind Ganna, while veteran Jos van Emden also rolled back the years to finish sixth.
Though Jumbo-Visma have impressed greatly as a team with their time trial exports in recent years, few were anticipating such high finishers for what is essentially their b-squad, suggesting that the team’s decision to swap their Bianchi bikes for Cervélo is paying off handsomely.
In this context, George Bennett’s 52nd place finish at 41 seconds might be considered a disappointment, and suggests that he might not be in his very top form, despite hoping to mount a GC challenge.
This prompts the question — might Tobias Foss be a dark horse for GC? The 23-year-old has been touted as a future GC contender since succeeding Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar as Tour de l’Avenir champion in 2019, and has clearly started the Giro in great form. If he performs well in the mountains, Jumbo-Visma may switch strategy to protect him instead. Watch this space.
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